New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is planning to expand the coverage of its flagship health insurance scheme — Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), also known as Ayushman Bharat.
The scheme, which presently covers the bottom 40 per cent of Indians, is now likely to cover more than 75 per cent of the total population, ThePrint has learnt.
The Modi government also plans to merge all existing state and central government-run health insurance schemes under the Ayushman Bharat umbrella.
Launched in September 2018, the scheme provides an annual health cover of Rs 5 lakh per family to more than 10.74 crore poor families — about 50 crore people. The scheme covers secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation, which includes critical procedures including cardiac surgeries, organ transplants, and fixing stents and implants.
The scheme has already provided treatment to more than 13 lakh people across India in less than eight months. Despite facing teething problems in its implementation, beneficiaries had lauded the scheme.
What’s the plan?
“The central government-run schemes such as Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), Employees’ State Insurance (ESI), Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) and the railways health scheme are likely to be merged under the Ayushman Bharat by the end of this year,” a senior official from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told ThePrint.
“The merger of the existing schemes into Ayushman Bharat would result in covering more than 75 per cent of India’s population under health insurance.”
In fact, the central government has already received proposals from several states to integrate their schemes. “Most of the states are ready for the integration, while talks are on with the remaining few. For instance, Tamil Nadu has merged central and state schemes. Maharashtra’s Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana is likely to be merged soon with the scheme,” said another official from the health ministry, without elaborating on the details.
Integration could help states and the Centre to run the scheme better. “There is a lot of confusion between the rates under the different schemes. Moreover, it becomes very complex for hospitals to accept and execute multiple schemes,” the second official added.
Modi’s pet scheme
Modi had announced Ayushman Bharat, dubbed by some as ‘Modicare’, in his Independence Day speech last year. The scheme was formally launched on 23 September, and became operational from 25 September, the birth anniversary of Deendayal Upadhyaya, RSS ideologue and the founder of the BJP’s ideological predecessor, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
The scheme is counted among the Modi government’s top initiatives and is thought to have been politically beneficial too. The PM even mentioned it in his victory speech on the evening of 23 May, the day the Lok Sabha election results were declared, saying his government’s work for ailing Indians had borne fruit.
“This is not my victory or the BJP’s victory alone. It is the victory of citizens who aspire for an honest government… For the sick, who wait for years to save money to seek treatment and who are now covered by Ayushman Bharat,” he had said.