A Fillip For Healthcare
- Rs 5 lakh health insurance cover for 10.47 crore families
- Secondary & tertiary hospital care for 40 per cent of the population
- Government and private hospitals to be empanelled
- Pre-fixed procedure rates to protect poor
- PMO keen on below Rs 1,000 premium
This Independence Day, the government promises deliverance from one of the biggest problems plaguing India’s poor: money to pay their medical bills. But many say the date to roll out Modicare—the catchier alias for Ayushman Bharat Mission, or National Health Protection Scheme—is chosen carefully to calibrate it with next year’s national elections. The signature initiative can be purposed to woo a large catchment of voters, many of whom struggle with rising medical costs and a crumbling public healthcare system.
The programme was announced in the Union Budget of 2018-19 to provide about 500 million people, mostly the poor living in the countryside, with health cover of Rs 5 lakh a year for free treatment of serious illnesses. The Narendra Modi government vowed to make healthcare affordable. Applause followed, as did criticism. The questions resurfaced days before the formal launch of Ayushman Bharat, which loosely means “an India blessed with a long life”.
Is this not a repurposed second innings of the UPA-era Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) that sought to provide free healthcare to families ‘below the poverty line’, or BPL, through a network of empanelled hospitals, mostly in small towns? The RSBY had an insurance cover of Rs 30,000 and pre-fixed rates for various procedures. But it got...