Ageing in India: Financial hardship from health expenditures

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India's rapidly ageing population raises concerns about the burden of health care payments among older individuals who may have both limited income and greater health care needs. Using a nationally representative household survey, we investigate the association between age and financial hardship due to health expenditures. We find that both the probability of experiencing health problems and mean total out-of-pocket health expenditures increase with age. Second, the probability of households experiencing catastrophic health expenditures increases with each additional member aged 60 and above—33% of households with one 60+ member and 38% of households with 2 or more 60+ members experienced catastrophic health expenditures, compared to only 20% in households with all members under the age of 60 years. Lastly, we show that individuals aged 60 and above had a much higher probability of becoming impoverished as a result of health expenditures—the probability of impoverishment for 60+ individuals was 3 percentage points higher than for individuals under the age of 60. Overall, around 4.8% of the older population, representing 4.1 million people, fell into poverty. The results suggest that there is an urgent need for public investments in financial protection programs for older people in India.

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