In Pakistan, Asher Hasan brings innovation to health-care cost, at $1.80 per month
Pakistan's low-income families can buy inexpensive health-care insurance through his Nava Jeevan (New Life) program.
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Unlike the wealthy patrons of the hotel he guarded, the father of four wouldn't ordinarily have had access to top-notch medical treatment.
But thanks to a health-care program run by the nonprofit Naya Jeevan (New Life), Mr. Shah, who earns just $150 a month, paid nothing for the MRI scans and treatment he received, worth some $1,400. He now has returned to work.
Shah is one of some 13,000 low-income workers in Pakistan signed on to the Naya Jeevan program. It was founded in 2007 by surgeon-turned-social entrepreneur Asher Hasan and began operating in Pakistan last summer.
"In Pakistan, privileged people can afford their care," Dr. Hasan explains. "The poor, who work alongside the rich, were just excluded from the system."
Hasan left a successful career in the United States to return to Pakistan, where he had spent his formative years, on a mission to provide affordable health care to low-income workers.
He lived a "clichéd life," he says, with a résumé that includes an MBA from New York University, research work at Harvard Medical School, and a stint as a senior executive at a California-based pharmaceutical company.
"I knew there was much more I could be doing in Pakistan," Hasan says.
By working with insurance companies to spread risk across clusters of low-income workers, who typically earn less than $200 a month, Naya Jeevan opens up high-quality health care to a segment of the population that couldn't afford it before.
Each participant pays in about $1.80 per month. The maximum catastrophic payout is $1,800 per year – the average cost of heart bypass surgery at a good private hospital in Pakistan, Hasan says.
That low monthly premium, which he calculates as roughly 2.1 percent of the monthly income of the working poor, as well as the absence of deductibles and copayments, is "commendable," says Farasat Bokhari, a Pakistani-American health economist at King's College in London.
"More impressive is the fact that they have contracts with a large number of private hospitals, which are presumably of higher quality compared with the public hospitals, which are severely underfunded," Mr. Bokhari says.