One of the highlights of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget 2018 speech was the announcement of the National Health Protection Scheme, which seeks to provide health insurance cover worth Rs 5 lakh per family, to over ten crore economically vulnerable families. Approximately 50 crore beneficiaries are expected to avail of this scheme.
Soon after this announcement, however, critics delved into the Budget document to find out how much money would be allocated by the government for this landmark scheme, which was said to be a precursor to universal health coverage in India. They were unable to find the name of the scheme mentioned anywhere in the budget file of the health ministry.
“The budget is basically a presentation of the government’s accounts, its income and its expenditure. If no money has been allocated towards the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), then as of now there is no plan to launch the scheme during the next financial year. The finance minister should have at least specified that no allocation of funds has been made towards this scheme in the next financial year, but we are thinking along these lines,” wrote noted economist and analyst Vivek Kaul, in a recent Facebook post.
Refuting these claims, the government has come out of the woodwork and presented some crucial details for the same. As per the government’s premier policy think-tank NITI Aayog, the scheme will require a yearly amount of Rs 12,000 crore, to cover ten crore economically vulnerable households every year.
Reports indicate that the scheme is expected to be rolled out on Independence Day (August 15) or Gandhi Jayanti (October 2), later this year.
“Around Rs 2,000 crore has been allocated for the scheme, but eventually, the states will have to implement it with help from the Centre. The Centre will bear 60% of the cost, and 40% will be borne by the states,” said JP Nadda, Union health minister.
“NHPS is expected to reach 50% beneficiaries in the first year based on the states’ acceptance, for which it will need a budget of Rs 6,000 crore in 2018-19,” said Alok Kumar, advisor, NITI Aayog, to the Hindustan Times. “A premium between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,200 for each family will provide a floating cover of Rs 5 lakh,” the report goes on to add.
The government will identify the potential beneficiaries of the scheme through the socio-economic caste census 2011 released by the Ministry of Rural Development.
“There will be no ceiling on family size. The choice of the insurance model will depend on the state, but we would ideally want the states to move to a Trust model like Aarogyasri in Andhra Pradesh so that the money stays in the government system,” said Preeti Sudan, Union health secretary, to the publication.
Despite the government’s apparent clarification, a lot of questions remain unanswered.