NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's universal health plan that aims to offer guaranteed benefits to a sixth of the world's population will cost an estimated 1.6 trillion rupees ($26 billion) over the next four years, a senior health ministry official said.

Under the National Health Assurance Mission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government would provide all citizens with free drugs and diagnostic treatment, as well as insurance cover to treat serious ailments.

The proposed plan would be rolled out in phases from April 2015 and will cover the entire population by March 2019, C.K. Mishra, an additional secretary at the health ministry, told Reuters. When the entire population is covered, it would cost an estimated $11.4 billion annually.

 

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Douglas Busvine)