In a significant announcement during his Union Budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley declared two major new health initiatives under the government’s Ayushman Bharat Program.
One of the initiatives is the flagship National Health Protection Scheme, which seeks to provide health insurance cover worth Rs 5 lakh per family to over 10 crore economically vulnerable families. Approximately 50 crore beneficiaries are expected to avail of this scheme.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to announce the Ayushman Bharat scheme on Independence Day tomorrow. However, the full-scale roll-out of this scheme is expected from September 25.
The 10 crore families will be selected based on the Socio-Economic Caste Census (2011) database. There is no cap on family size or age in the scheme – to ensure no vulnerable citizens are left out.
Beneficiaries under this scheme can avail of cashless benefits from any public/private empanelled hospital across India, covering pre and post-hospitalization expenses.
Although the government had an initial list of beneficiaries, Indu Bhushan, CEO of Ayushman Bharat, said it has conducted another drive to find out others who are eligible for the scheme.
“For the purpose, we launched a drive to find out the availability of the beneficiaries and found that 80% people are available in the rural areas and 60% are present in the rural areas. Now, we will be sending a letter to them and inform that they are covered under the scheme and what are its benefits. The family cards will be also mailed along with the letter. Later, they will be provided with the individual cards by approaching the hospital that falls under its ambit as well as the common service centre (CSC),” she said, speaking to Zee News in an interview last month.
In the first phase, family cards will be provided to about 6-8 crore families, she added.
Finance Minister Jaitley claimed that this scheme would be the “world’s largest healthcare programme.”
The second major initiative, which is reminiscent of the Delhi government’s Mohalla Clinics, is the creation of 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness centres, which will “bring healthcare closer to home.”
These centres are expected to provide diagnostic services and essential medicines. For this initiative, the government has set aside Rs 1200 crore.
Expenditure for the health insurance scheme, meanwhile, will be shared between Centre and State governments in a specified ratio. It’s 60:40 between the Centre and all states and UTs with their own legislature, 90:10 for Northeastern states and three Himalayan states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and 100% Centre-funding for UTs without a legislature.
Besides this endeavour, states can continue to run their own health schemes.
According to The Indian Express, 14 states/UTs have finalised their MoUs with the Centre on this particular scheme. Of these Sikkim, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chandigarh and Madhya Pradesh will implement something called the trust model, where governments will directly reimburse bills accrued by patients. States like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, are going for a mixed model that “would see third-party insurance agencies provide a portion of the Rs 5 lakh cover and the state trust providing the remaining amount,” according to the Economic Times.
Even though the public isn’t currently privy to the nitty-gritty details of these initiatives, the insurance cover scheme for over 10 crore families is potentially groundbreaking in a country, where only 27% of Indians have health insurance cover, and government spending on healthcare is abysmally low.
Considering the poor state of healthcare infrastructure, health insurance is a product that every Indian must acquire. India’s health-related out-of-pocket expenditure, which pushes a significant section of the Indian populace into indebtedness and deeper poverty because of health ailments that necessitate high costs, is among the world’s highest.
As per a draft National Health Policy document, more than 63 million face poverty every year due to “catastrophic” expenditure over healthcare which neutralises rising income and critical government schemes that seek to reduce poverty.
Depending on how the government implements the Flagship National Health Protection Scheme, it could provide the necessary social security for the most vulnerable, thus ushering the country onto a path of a progressive developing economy.
Last year, the government increased the allocation for the health ministry from Rs 39,688 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 48,853 in 2017-18. This was a 23.1% increase in the allocation for the health sector, although the sums were lopsided in favour medical education that health cover. The announcement of these initiatives dwarfs anything the government promised to deliver last year.