Community-based health insurance has been associated with increased hospitalisation in low-income settings, but with limited analysis of the illnesses for which claims are submitted. A review of claims submitted to VimoSEWA, an inpatient insurance scheme in Gujarat, India, found that fever, diarrhoea and hysterectomy, the latter at a mean age of 37 years, were the leading reasons for claims by adult women. We compared the morbidity, outpatient treatment-seeking and hospitalisation patterns of VimoSEWA-insured women with uninsured women.
The authors utilised data from a cross-sectional survey of 1,934 insured and uninsured women in Gujarat, India. Multivariable logistic regression identified predictors of insurance coverage and the association of insurance with hospitalisation. Self-reported data on morbidity, outpatient care and hospitalisation were compared between insured and uninsured women.
Age, marital status and occupation of adult women were associated with insurance status. Reported recent morbidity, type of illness and outpatient treatment were similar among insured and uninsured women. Multivariable analysis revealed strong evidence of a higher odds of hospitalisation amongst the insured (OR = 2.7; 95% ci. 1.6, 4.7). The leading reason for hospitalisation for uninsured and insured women was hysterectomy, at a similar mean age of 36, followed by common ailments such as fever and diarrhoea. Insured women appeared to have a higher probability of being hospitalised than uninsured women for all causes, rather than specifically for fever, diarrhoea or hysterectomy. Length of stay was similar while choice of hospital differed between insured and uninsured women.
Despite similar reported morbidity patterns and initial treatment-seeking behaviour, VimoSEWA members were more likely to be hospitalised. The data did not provide strong evidence that inpatient hospitalisation replaced outpatient treatment for common illnesses or that insurance was the primary inducement for hysterectomy in the population. Rather, it appears that VimoSEWA members behaved differently in deciding if, and where, to be hospitalised for any condition. Further research is required to explore this decision-making process and roles, if any, played by adverse selection and moral hazard. Lastly, these hospitalisation patterns raise concerns regarding population health needs and access to quality preventive and outpatient services.