The Indian premier has hailed the scheme, saying "it will become an example" for the world. But others are critical, warning that similar initiatives had been bogged down by lack of infrastructure and state corruption.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday formally launched a healthcare insurance scheme that is expected to cover some 500 million of the poorest people in the country.
The healthcare scheme aims to provide each family with up to 500,000 rupees (€5,880, $6,920) of coverage annually.
"No other nation has such a scheme," Modi said in the Jharkhand capital Ranchi, where he launched the scheme. "It will become an example that people will study all over the world."
The program forms part of the Ayushman Bharat, a government project to expand health services across India. The healthcare scheme — launched as part of the project — has been dubbed "Modicare" after the prime minister.
Split between the central government and state authorities, the scheme is expected to cost approximately $1.6 billion (€1.36 billion) annually. It is expected to run in a "cashless and paperless" way.
But some are critical of Modicare, warning that it should have also included primary healthcare for day-to-day health issues.
"Modicare does not extend to primary healthcare, which, we believe, is the weakest link in the provision of public health in India," wrote Rajiv Lall and Vivek Dehejia of India's Infrastructure Development Finance Company in a column for the Delhi-based Mint newspaper.
"The crucial point is that poorly delivered primary care inevitably increases the burden on health and finance at the secondary and tertiary levels down the line."
Experts say India's public heath system is overburdened by a shortage of health workers and facilities.
Indian citizens with financial means have resorted to private health practices and clinics, where a consultation can cost 1,000 rupees (€12, $14). However, those options are out of reach for the millions of people who live on less than $2 (€1.70) a day.
ls/jm (dpa, AFP)