Domestic helps to get medical insurance benefits

Domestic helps to get medical insurance benefits

New Delhi: About 47.5 lakh domestic helps would soon get medical insurance benefits under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) with the union cabinet approving the proposal Thursday.

The scheme, which envisages smart card-based cashless health insurance cover of up to 30,000 under any empanelled hospital anywhere in the country, was approved by the Cabinet at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Earlier this month, the Cabinet had given its nod to extend the same scheme to 55 lakh beedi workers by 2013-14.

The RSBY would be extended to those domestic workers who are registered and are between 18-59 years of age, information and droadcasting minister Ambika Soni said, adding that majority of them are women.

The beneficiaries would have to get identification certificates from any two of the four institutions — the employer, residents welfare associations, registered trade unions or the police, labour and employment minister Mallikarjun Kharge said.

The annual estimated expenditure to be incurred by the Centre to extend the benefits of RSBY to domestic workers would be 29.70 crore in 2011-12, 74.25 crore in 2012-13, 148.50 crore in 2013-14 and 297 crore in 2014-15.

While the Centre would be bearing 75% of the entire cost, the states would have to incur the remaining amount. For the Northeastern states, the ratio would be 90% for the Centre and 10% for states, Kharge said, adding that ten per cent of domestic workers would be covered in the first year.

The funds for extending the RSBY, which would also provide maternity benefits, would be allocated from the National Social Security Fund for unorganised workers, Soni said.

The upper limit of the annual contribution would be 750 per beneficiary, of which the Centre would bear 565 and another 60 for the smart card, she said, adding that a maximum of five members per family would be covered.

Asked whether a law would be brought to protect the rights of domestic helps as suggested by National Advisory Committee chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Kharge said, “The issue (of making a law) came up recently. ... As of today, we are extending the benefits of an existing programme to domestic workers".

He said the UPA Chairperson had written a letter in this regard to the Prime Minister recently.

The labour minister said a task force, constituted in December 2009, had recommended among other things the extension of RSBY to domestic workers.

The extension of the scheme would not only provide them insurance benefits, but also help in preventing their exploitation, Soni said, adding the move would also lead to registration of workers and placement agencies.

Terming the decision as “a significant and important agenda of the UPA government", the I&B Minister said domestic helps were unorganised and the sector remained unregulated and unprotected by labour laws.

Most of these workers came from vulnerable communities and backward areas. “They are poor, illiterate, unskilled and do not understand the urban labour market", she said.