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Health focused credit cards: A novel approach

A partnership between RBL Bank and digital healthcare platform Practo has resulted in a novel yet potentially beneficial creation — a healthcare-focused credit card.

Copyright: waelkhalil / 123RF Stock Photo

Such a concept is reportedly an industry first within India. The hopes of the credit card is to increase access to healthcare by allowing a portion of monthly expenses for matters such as food and housing to subsidise medical expenses. “This card gives a unique ability to consumers to use their regular spends for household expenses for subsidizing their monthly health spends on Practo platform,” said Practo’s Vice President Tarun Bhambra.

With programmes such as Ayushman Bharat providing insurance coverage to impoverished Indians across the nation, will such a scheme have a considerable impact? This matter is up for debate.

On one hand, those holding the card are cumulatively and passively increasing a pool of credit intended for use exclusively for medical purposes simply by spending money as they otherwise would have. This would be unlikely to amount to a huge sum unless the individual is wealthy and spending a considerable amount, and so it could be argued that the scheme benefits those who need it the least. 

Those from impoverished communities may be unlikely to spend much on a credit card and therefore those who are in most need of subsidised healthcare reap the least benefit from the scheme. However, the medical credit card has other features which could be of significant use to individuals with a moderate income, or those who are based in urban areas. Admittedly, however, these same policies fall short for rural or impoverished communities.

Some of these extra features include unlimited and round-the-clock online consultations with experienced and qualified doctors (though seemingly only those available through Practo), as well as one free full body health check-up. For those unable to access the internet, or not within a reasonable distance from a facility able to provide a health check-up, the service may be all but useless.

Nonetheless, the scheme has potential, particularly within an ever growing digital health market. It must be emphasised, however, that due to its currently limited outreach those who are most in need of the benefits of the medical credit card will often not be in a financial situation in which they are in a position to reap these rewards.

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