Govt to bring health insurance scheme for accredited scribes

The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the backdrop of persistent demands by journalists for extending low-cost medical benefits.

The Cabinet gave a go-ahead to the Health Ministry to bring a comprehensive health insurance scheme in a time-bound manner to cover journalists accredited to the Press Information Bureau (PIB) and their families, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters, adding the scheme is expected to be introduced within months.
Official sources said the scheme could be unveiled by March next year.

The insurance scheme for the journalists will be on the lines of the one being prepared for government employees on the basis of recommendations of the sixth Pay Commission.

The Prime Minister has asked the Health Ministry to assess whether the scheme for journalists could be subsidised, she said.

Noting that an insurance scheme for journalists already existed in Kerala, she said the centre would study whether it could be adopted as a model.

Soni said effort would be to make the scheme as journalist -friendly as possible and keep the premium controlled.

The Information and Broadcasting Minister said the Cabinet also decided to renew CGHS facilities to 1258 PIB-accredited journalists at the rate of Rs 1067 per annum, up from Rs 600 as earlier.

The scheme will be applicable from 2004-05 and arrears would have to be paid in three installments.

The renewal of the scheme will not cover family members of journalists except 337 family members who are already availing the facility.

An office-bearer of the Press Association protested over exclusion of family members in the CGHS scheme and wanted scrapping of arrears.

Respecting his "right of protest", Soni responded by saying that the protest should be withheld till the insurance scheme is unveiled.

Under the CGHS facility, accredited journalists are entitled to OPD facilities and hospitalisation in central government hospitals.

Soni said the facility was intended only for journalists but "by mistake" family members of a few journalists were also included.

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