Ayushman Bharat, world’s largest government-funded healthcare scheme, to be launched on September 25

The government will provide health insurance to 100 million families to help them access good quality and affordable healthcare, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, in a move aimed at shoring up support ahead of federal elections in 2019.

The Ayushman Bharat scheme will cover about 500 million Indians, a mass of people larger than the population of South America. It will be rolled on September 25 in a country where a 2017 World Health Organisation report found spending on health pushed more than 52 million people below the poverty line.

“It is essential to ensure that we free the poor of India from the clutches of poverty due to which they cannot afford healthcare,” Modi said while addressing the nation on Independence Day from Red Fort in New Delhi. “The healthcare initiatives of the government will have a positive impact.”

Modi is seeking to spend more on the countryside–home to about 68 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people and a key voting bloc in the world’s largest democracy–as he prepares to face general elections in eight months. India has flagged low levels of insurance penetration as a potential damper on its growth, with as many as 70 million people slipping into poverty each year due to sickness.

It has long under-invested in health and spending as percentage of GDP is lower than most low income countries, including neighbors Nepal and Maldives.

The government had announced the plan in February to provide health insurance to cover about 40 percent of the population. India expects to spend up to 120 billion rupees ($1.9 billion) annually on premium payments to provide poor families with a cover of 500,000 rupees a year.