A critical analysis of the world's largest publicly funded health insurance program: India's Ayushman Bharat

Rajesh Kamath, Helmut Brand

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Launched in September 2018, the ABPMJAY is the world's largest publicly funded health insurance (PFHI) program with population coverage of 500 million. A systematic review was conducted. Methods: A comprehensive literature search was conducted in four databases: PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar. The literature search was conducted with the search terms: 'Ayushman Bharat OR ABPMJAY OR modicare AND RSBY.' The search was set to title and abstract. Gray literature and government websites were also searched for relevant documents. A total of 881 documents were identified (PubMed: 53, Web of Science: 46, Scopus: 97, Google Scholar: 681, government websites: two, and gray literature: two). Fifty-two duplicates were identified. After the elimination of the duplicates, 829 unique documents were identified. These 829 unique citations were then subjected to a review of title and abstract independently by 2 reviewers. Six-hundred and ninety-two articles were rejected after review of title and abstract. One-hundred and thirty-seven articles were screened for full text independently by two reviewers. Sixty-six articles were rejected after review of the full text. Disagreements were resolved by discussion. Seventy-one unique articles were included in the final review. To attain the objective of the study, which is to critically analyze and provide an overview of Ayushman Bharat, a narrative synthesis was performed. Results: Seven themes were identified from the review: (1) health and wellness centers (HWCs); (2) out-of-pocket health expenditure (OOPHE); (3) fraud; (4) upcoding and provision of unnecessary medical care; (5) moving focus away from primary care; (6) coverage; and (7) lop-sided access, exclusion at the periphery, and brain drain. There is very little impact evidence of the ABPMJAY available. Conclusions: The government could plan impact evaluation studies in every state that the ABPMJAY is functional in. Any high-quality feedback generated might enable the National Health Authority, the government body leading and coordinating the ABPMJAY, to take necessary steps operationally and advice the government on strategy. Another concern is that the ABPMJAY PFHI might negatively impact the ongoing process of continuous strengthening and development of the government health-care system at all levels - primary, secondary, and tertiary. Continual recalibration and course corrections on the basis of high-quality feedback might enable ABPMJAY reduce catastrophic OOPHE for 500 million Indians. This is more than 6% of humanity: the largest block of people served by a single PFHI in history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20
Number of pages1
JournalInternational Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01-01-2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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