Four states, one UT sign pact for Ayushman Bharat scheme

Four BJP-ruled north Indian states and one Union Territory signed a pact here on Monday with the National Health Mission to implement government of India’s Ayushman Bharat scheme that aims to provide free treatment to the poor.

However, Congress-ruled Punjab refused to sign the memorandum of understanding (MoU), saying the state had “some issues that need to be resolved first before the scheme launch”.

Highlights of the scheme:

It will subsume the on-going centrally sponsored schemes -Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS).

The scheme has the benefits cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year. To ensure that nobody is left out (especially women, children and elderly) there will be no cap on family size and age in the scheme. The benefits cover will also include pre and post-hospitalization expenses.

The target beneficiaries of the proposed scheme will be more than 10 crore families belonging to poor and vulnerable population based on SECC database. Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country and a beneficiary covered under the scheme will be allowed to take cashless benefits from any public/private empanelled hospitals across the country.

State Governments will be allowed to expand AB-NHPM both horizontally and vertically. States will be free to choose the modalities for implementation. They can implement through the insurance company or directly through Trust/ Society or a mixed model.

For giving policy directions and fostering coordination between Centre and States, it is proposed to set up Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Council (AB-NHPMC) at apex level Chaired by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister.

It will be an entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation criteria in the SECC database.

The different categories in rural area include families having only one room with kucha walls and kucharoof; families having no adult member between age 16 to 59; female-headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59; disabled member and no able-bodied adult member in the family; SC/ST households; and landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour.

Also, automatically included families in rural areas having any one of the following: households without shelter, destitute, living on alms, manual scavenger families, primitive tribal groups, legally released bonded labour. For urban areas, 11 defined occupational categories are entitled under the scheme.

At the national level to manage, an Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Agency (AB-NHPMA) would be put in place. States/ UTs would be advised to implement the scheme by a dedicated entity called State Health Agency (SHA). They can either use an existing Trust/ Society/ Not for Profit Company/ State Nodal Agency (SNA) or set up a new entity to implement the scheme. States/ UTs can decide to implement the scheme through an insurance company or directly through the Trust/ Society or use an integrated model.

This will lead to increased access to quality health and medication. In addition, the unmet needs of the population which remained hidden due to lack of financial resources will be catered to. This will lead to timely treatments, improvements in health outcomes, patient satisfaction, improvement in productivity and efficiency, job creation thus leading to improvement in the quality of life.

The scheme, if implemented properly could be a game changer by enhancing access to health care including early detection and treatment services by a large section of society who otherwise could not afford them. The identification of beneficiaries can be done by linking with Aadhar and similarly following up for services received and health outcomes achieved, thereby helping to monitor and evaluate the impact of the programme.

Ultimately, the scheme could help the country move towards universal health coverage and equitable access to healthcare which is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

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