CERGAS Seminar "The genesis of the PM-JAY health insurance scheme in India: technical and political elements influencing a national reform towards universal health coverage"

Meeting people

Many countries are using health insurance to advance progress towards universal health coverage (UHC). India launched the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) health insurance scheme in 2018. We examine the political economy context around PM-JAY policy formulation, by examining the perspectives of policy stakeholders shaping decisions around the reform. More specifically, we focus on early policy design at the central (national) level. We use a framework on the politics of UHC reform proposed by Fox and Reich (The politics of universal health coverage in low- and middle-income countries: A framework for evaluation and action. J. Health Polit. Policy Law 2015;40:1023–1060), to categorize the reform into phases and examine the interactions between actors, institutions, interests, ideas and ideology which shaped reform decisions. We interviewed 15 respondents in Delhi between February and April 2019, who were either closely associated with the reform process or subject experts. The ruling centre-right government introduced PM-JAY shortly before national elections, drawing upon policy legacies from prior and state insurance schemes. Empowered policy entrepreneurs within the government focused discourse around ideas of UHC and strategic purchasing, and engaged in institution building leading to the creation of the National Health Authority and State Health Agencies through policy directives, thereby expanding state infrastructural and institutional power for insurance implementation. Indian state inputs were incorporated in scheme design features like mode of implementation, benefit package and provider network, while features like the coverage amount, portability of benefits and branding strategy were more centrally driven. These balanced negotiations opened up political space for a cohesive, central narrative of the reform and facilitated adoption. Our analysis shows that the PM-JAY reform focused on bureaucratic rather than ideological elements and that technical compromises and adjustments accommodating the interests of states enabled the political success of policy formulation. Appreciating these politics, power and structural issues shaping PM-JAY institutional design will be important to understand how PM-JAY is implemented and how it advances UHC in India.


Swati Srivastava joined the Research Group in Health Economics and Health Financing of the Heidelberg Institute of Global Health (HIGH) as a scientific staff member in December 2018. She has a background in clinical dentistry and public health and is trained in quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research. Her research interests include the thematic areas of health care access and utilization, quality of service provision, health insurance systems and universal health coverage; and mixed methods evaluation techniques. Swati’s doctoral research focuses on the effect of the PM-JAY health insurance scheme in India on service provision, including implementation experiences and service quality. Prior to joining HIGH, Swati has worked on quality of maternal and obstetric care, program evaluations of different Indian social health insurance schemes, health financing and tobacco economics.

Meeting ID: 925 6929 7014
Passcode: 110346
Lunch bags at the end of the meeting: for those willing to participate in person, click here before the 1st of May.