There has been significant progress with the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation’s (ICMIF) 5-5-5 Mutual Microinsurance Strategy in India, with the selection of the first two cooperatives to partner with Uplift Mutuals (the flagship programme of Uplift India Association).
The signing of the new cooperatives, Prem Sewa Mahila Cooperative Credit Society Ltd and Sahajivan Mahila Nagari Cooperative Credit Society Ltd, will contribute to Uplift’s goal of providing health mutual aid coverage to an additional half a million low-income people in India within the next five years.
Kumar Shailabh, Executive Director, Uplift India Association, summarizes the Uplift 5-5-5 project and explains how partnerships with other organizations will help them achieve their goal: “We plan to expand our existing community-owned health microinsurance program and healthcare services to deliver affordable health insurance to new communities. To achieve this, we plan to initiate a direct distribution and centralized risk retention model, targeting employees of small and medium enterprises, unions and cooperatives of various kinds.”
Uplift signed an agreement with Prem Sewa Cooperative Credit Society Ltd on 24 November 2016 (see picture), making Prem Sewa the first partner organization for the 5-5-5 project in India. Prem Sewa is a women’s credit cooperative society, and has been operating in Santa Cruz East, Mumbai since 1993. Its mission is to empower women in slums and promote self-reliance, and at present the cooperative has over 7,500 members. The second partner cooperative, Sahajivan Mahila Nagari Cooperative Credit Society Ltd, also based in the Mumbai metropolitan area, comprises 3,100 women from low-income households.
Sister Shakutnala, Chair of Sahajivan and Prem Sewa cooperatives, describes their membership: “Almost a quarter of our members work as domestic helps, others work as street vendors or run their own microenterprises. It is important to understand that our members are not fixed; as economic status improves, families move out of slums and are replaced by new ones. So there are always some new members.”
Uplift and its health mutual insurance program is not new to Prem Sewa; the two organizations previously partnered in 2012, to establish a health mutual program. The health mutual product was bundled with the microloan and was compulsory for all members who took loans. The limitation of this model was that only members who took loans (1,500 of the 7,000 +) had access to health insurance. After the launch of the Uplift 5-5-5 project in August 2016, Shailabh approached Sister Shakutnala with a proposal to start a health mutual program under the 5-5-5 project, wherein Uplift will work directly in the field with its own team of doctors and risks would be pooled in a centralized fund.
Sister Shakuntala commented on her expectations from the new partnership with Uplift: “I think the partnership will be highly advantageous for our members. Not only will it be accessible to all members (even the non-microcredit) but it will also improve services such as turnaround time of claim settlement and reimbursement as Uplift has the latest management information system”.
Shailabh explains the next steps for the project: “In December and January, Uplift will launch an intensive client education campaign to motivate members to join the health mutual program and simultaneously work on creating a network of healthcare providers. Starting 1 February 2017, we will roll out the policy.”
Since the project was first launched, Uplift have also acquired premises for a new pharmacy in Pune, which is due to be operational by the end of February 2017.
Sabbir Patel, CEO and Managing Director, ICMIF Foundation, commented: “We are delighted to see such progress with this project under the leadership of Mr Kumar Shailabh, together with the support of the communities he has so tirelessly worked with”.
He continues: “We are also very grateful to our two ICMIF members The Co-operators (Canada) and Länsförsäkringar AB (Sweden), who are directly supporting the 5-5-5 project with Uplift. Their financial and technical assistance will ensure the project stays true to its mission and addresses the needs of the most vulnerable communities in India.”
ICMIF launched the 5-5-5 Mutual Microinsurance Strategy in January 2015 to help mutual microinsurance reach its potential in a number of emerging markets. Over the course of five years, ICMIF plans to scale up mutual microinsurance in India, Philippines, Kenya, Colombia and Sri Lanka, reaching out to 5 million uninsured low-income households (25 million people in total).