BAIF's health programs address the needs of families living below the poverty line and promotes hygiene, sanitation, immunization, nutrition, maternal and child care and family welfare. Furthermore, BAIF runs 750 centers throughout India and its 2000 employees – among them over 100 professionals holding a doctoral degree, MBA or equivalents – contribute to BAIF’s research, training and service provision activities.
For the past decade, BAIF has promoted the founding of women's self-help groups (SHGs). SHGs consist of 10-20 women and function as a savings and credit facility. BAIF uses these SHGs as a platform for training, capacity building and the flow of information on health and hygiene. Special attention is paid to issues of reproductive health. Since most of BAIF's clients are agricultural laborers, the impact of severe illness on the prosperity of the household is high due to the direct costs of treatment as well the indirect costs of lost income. Furthermore, the women in the SHGs have stated that it is difficult for them to claim medical treatment, as their husbands do in case of expensive illness.
In 1998, BAIF decided to responded to this situation with a pilot project around their center in Urulikanchan. Originally developing and implementing their own community health insurance model, BAIF later partnered with insurance companies to negotiate a benefits package tailored to the needs of the women in the SHGs. Eventually, however, the decision was made to return to the mutual health insurance model. The product is now a partner-agent model providing voluntary, group health and life insurance.
BAIF’s primary policyholders are women ages 18-70 participating in self-help groups. While non-members are not explicitly excluded, everyone who has opted to take-up the voluntary health and life insurance product has been a member of a self- help group. Women and their families are covered by the policy and receive hospitalization up to US$113.65 (Rs. 5,000), concessionary prices for primary care at a BAIF center, and life insurance for the policyholder. Childbirth is excluded in the first nine months of members.
The premium is US$2.91 (Rs.131) plus an administrative fee of US$0.55. Policyholders give their money to the group representative who then puts the money into the bank account of the BAIF SHG Insurance Committee. Members are reimbursed for their claims following the completion of the appropriate paperwork and approval by the BAIF SHG Insurance Committee.
Membership grew when family members were added in 2004. Claims not fully settled are eligible for reimbursement in future months when balances are positive. This “relative benefit” plan ensures that the scheme never runs a deficit; the claims loss ratio (the share of premiums used to pay claims) was 92 percent in 2005.