Public health insurance and maternal health care utilization in India: evidence from the 2005–2012 mothers’ cohort data

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The introduction of Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) in India, a conditional cash transfer program which incentivized women to deliver at institutions, resulted in a significant increase in institutional births. Another major health policy reform, which could have affected maternal and child health care (MCH) utilization, was the public health insurance scheme (RSBY) launched in 2008. However, there is a noticeable lack of studies that examine how RSBY had impacted on MCH utilization in India. We used data from a cohort of mothers whose delivery had been captured in both the 2005 and 2011/12 rounds of the Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS) to study the impact of health insurance (in particular, the public insurance scheme versus private insurance) on MCH access. We also investigated whether maternal empowerment was a significant correlate that affects MCH utilization.

We used the multilevel mixed-effects ordered logistic regression model to account for the clustered nature of our data. We derived indexes for women’s empowerment using Principal component analysis (PCA) technique applied to various indicators of women’s autonomy and socio-economic status.

Our results indicated that the odds of mothers’ MCH utilization levels vary by district, community and mother over time. The effect of the public insurance scheme (RSBY) on MCH utilization was not as strong as privately available insurance. However, health insurance was only significant in models that did not control for household and mother level predictors. Our findings indicated that maternal empowerment indicators – in particular, maternal ability to go out of the house and complete chores and economic empowerment—were associated with higher utilization of MCH services. Among control variables, maternal age and education were significant correlates that increase MCH service utilization over time. Household wealth quintile was another significant factor with mothers belonging to upper quintiles more likely to access and utilize MCH services.

Change in women’s and societal attitude towards maternal care may have played a significant role in increasing MCH utilization over the study period. There might be a need to increase the coverage of the public insurance scheme given the finding that it was less effective in increasing MCH utilization. Importantly, policies that aim to improve health services for women need to take maternal autonomy and empowerment into consideration.
Original languageEnglish
Article number155
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2022


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