PM flags off mega healthcare scheme

Last Updated 23 September 2018, 19:39 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched the world’s largest public-funded medical insurance scheme under which a cover of Rs 5 lakh would be provided to 10.74 crore families from the poor and deprived section of society.

“The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana-Ayushman Bharat is a game-changer initiative to serve the poor. It is the world’s biggest health assurance scheme and the number of beneficiaries is roughly equal to the population of the European Union, or the population of America, Canada and Mexico taken together,” Modi said, launching the scheme in Ranchi.

Soon after the rollout, the first five patients were admitted in Ranchi Institute of Medical Science for urology and cystoscopy procedures. More than 13,000 hospitals have joined the scheme so far while applications from 2,500-plus hospitals are pending.

The scheme would provide cashless health benefits for 1,350 procedures for which rates have been fixed by the government, much to the chagrin of a section of private hospitals that are yet to join the scheme. Pre- and post-hospitalisation cost, diagnosis, medicine and transport costs are covered in the package.

As many as 31 states and Union Territories are currently on board for the mega health insurance programme. Kerala, Telangana, Odisha and Punjab are yet to join the scheme. States that have their own health insurance schemes for the poor will merge their existing programmes with the central scheme.

The scheme offers migration option too. “For states that are a part of PMJAY, people can get the benefit of the scheme in whichever of these states they go to,” Modi said. The ambitious healthcare scheme, dubbed Modicare, was launched two days ahead of its original target launch date of September 25 — the birth anniversary of BJP idealogue Deen Dayal Upadhaya.

The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) targets poor, deprived rural families and identified occupational category of urban workers’ families as per the latest Socio-Economic Caste Census data for both rural and urban areas, as well as active families under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana.

The 71st round of the National Sample Survey Organisation found that 85.9% of rural households and 82% of urban households have no access to healthcare assurance. More than 17% of Indian population spend at least 10% of household budgets for health services.

Catastrophic healthcare related expenditure pushes families into debt, with more than 24% households in rural India and 18% population in urban area meeting their healthcare expenses through some sort of borrowings.

While the PMJAY aims to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure on health, there are still several bottlenecks that the government needs to overcome to make it a success. Private hospitals are in disagreement about the package rates; training of healthcare staff is inadequate and the standard treatment protocols that are to be the cornerstone of the scheme are nowhere in sight.

(Published 23 September 2018, 19:36 IST)

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