Using propensity score matching techniques, the study evaluates the impact of India's Yeshasvini community-based health insurance programme on health-care utilisation, financial protection, treatment outcomes and economic well-being. The programme offers free out-patient diagnosis and lab tests at discounted rates when ill, but, more importantly, it covers highly catastrophic and less discretionary in-patient surgical procedures. For its impact evaluation, 4109 randomly selected households in villages in rural Karnataka, an Indian state, were interviewed using a structured questionnaire. A comprehensive set of indicators was developed and the quality of matching was tested. Generally, the programme is found to have increased utilisation of health-care services, reduced out-of-pocket spending, and ensured better health and economic outcomes. More specifically, however, these effects vary across socio-economic groups and medical episodes. The programme operates by bringing the direct price of health-care down but the extent to which this effectively occurs across medical episodes is an empirical issue. Further, the effects are more pronounced for the better-off households. The article demonstrates that community insurance presents a workable model for providing high-end services in resource-poor settings through an emphasis on accountability and local management. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.