Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday rolled out the ambitious Ayushman Bharat–Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) in Ranchi, Jharkahnd.
The insurance scheme aims to provide an annual health cover of ₹5 lakh per family for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. The programme, which will benefit about 100 million poor households, or 500 million people, is touted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government as the world’s largest healthcare programme.
“People are calling the scheme Modicare, and by other names, but for me, it is an opportunity to serve the poor. This scheme that comes into effect from Sunday, is the world’s biggest health assurance scheme and will be a game changer,” said Modi.
“The number of beneficiaries of this scheme is roughly equal to the population of the European Union, or the population of America, Canada and Mexico, taken together.” The PM added that it will be a case study for countries across the world.
Modi said that without empowering the poor, previous governments had indulged in “vote bank politics” and it is his government, which is focused on empowering the poor.
Reiterating the slogan sabka saath, sabka vikas, the Prime Minister said that the Ayushman Bharat scheme is not based on any communal or caste lines. “The programme will not differentiate between people, based on religion, caste, location. The poor of my country must get all facilities that the rich enjoy.”
The beneficiaries have been sent a two-page customized letter from the Prime Minister, outlining the importance and benefits of the cashless and paperless project. Earlier in the day, the PM distributed token health cards to some of the beneficiaries at the Prabhat Tara Maidan in Ranchi. The scheme was originally announced in the Union budget in February.
The scheme is estimated to cost about ₹12,000 crore annually. “It will cover 1,300 illnesses, including serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, and pre-existing illnesses. Private hospitals, too, will be part of this scheme. The amount of ₹5 lakh will cover investigations, medicine and pre-hospitalization expenses, etc.,” he added.
Union health minister J.P. Nadda said, “Ayushman Bharat will bring a paradigm shift in the country’s health sector. A ‘golden card’ will ensure their cashless treatment. In case a person does not have a card, he or she will be treated in any one of the 13,000 hospitals, which are part of the Ayushman Bharat scheme, after taking the person’s thumb impression.”
Anupama Joshi, partner, Deloitte India, said, “As the scheme has been launched, it is expected to create additional hospital infrastructure by private sector and NGOs in areas where health facilities offering even secondary healthcare were non-existent. It will also help in creation of direct and indirect employment for many in hospitals, pharma industry, medical devices, transportation, civil infrastructure, among others,” she said.
More than 13,000 hospitals across the country have joined the scheme so far. Information regarding the scheme is available on dialling 14555, or at the common service centres. The objective is to reduce out-of-pocket hospitalisation expenses, fulfil unmet needs and improve access of identified families to quality inpatient care and day care surgeries.
The beneficiaries will be able to move across borders and access services across the country through the provider network seamlessly. The ministry of health and family welfare has included 1,354 packages in the scheme under which treatment for coronary bypass, knee replacements and stenting, among others, will be provided at 15-20% cheaper rates than Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS).
The scheme will target the poor and deprived rural families and identified occupational category of urban workers’ families comprising 80.3 million rural and 23.3 million urban households, according to the latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data. The 11 occupational categories of workers include rag pickers, beggars, domestic workers, street vendors, cobblers, hawkers, other service providers working on streets, construction workers, plumbers, masons, labours, painters, welders, security guards, coolies and other head-load workers and sanitation workers.
Modi had announced the launch of the scheme from the ramparts of the Red Fort during his Independence Day speech on the occasion of Deendayal Upadhyay’s birth anniversary.
Till now, 31 states and Union territories (UTs) have signed the MoUs with the centre for implementation the programme. Remaining states and UTs, including Telangana, Odisha, Delhi, Kerala and Punjab, have not signed it.