Ayushman Bharat program and National Health Protection Scheme India
The government of India has introduced a new health protection scheme in Budget 2018, called Ayushman Bharat program or NAMOCare. It’s touted as the biggest health care scheme in the world. The government claims that they are going to provide health coverage to over 10 Cr “poor and vulnerable” families in India who are really in need of affordable healthcare. This constitutes about 40% of Indian population. As part of this initiative, the government is also planning to set up new healthcare centers to provide quality healthcare services to the public.
Ayushman Bharat scheme is going to provide an insurance cover of up to 5 Lac per family per year. As per estimates provided by Neeti Aayog, the premium of the services is going to be around Rs. 1000 to 1200 per year. The government is planning to pay all the premium from its own pocket.
The Ayushman Bharat program, also known as NAMOCare/ModiCare or National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) is likely to be launched on 15 August, Independence Day. The government has set a deadline of 2nd October or ‘Gandhi Jayanti’ to be the latest by which its flagship scheme must be launched. It has sufficient budgetary allocation – having 60% fund from the Center while rest of the part coming from the State governments. The official notification for the Ayushman Bharat program can be found here.
Is AADHAR mandatory to benefit from Ayushman Bharat program?
It is not yet clear if the scheme will be directly linked to the AADHAAR. However, given that government’s recent push towards all social benefit schemes and services are linked to AADHAAR, it is quite probable that an AADHAAR will be mandatory to avail these services as well.
ModiCare or NAMOCare
This year is going to be the last year for Modi government to monetize the gains from such social schemes and convert into electoral gains. The government has already renamed the scheme to “NAMOCare” or “ModiCare” to associate the scheme with Prime Minister Modi. Healthcare ministry is gearing up to sell Ayushman Bharat program to Indian public just like ObamaCare in the USA.
Ayushman Bharat program is the most ambitious program undertaken by any government in India to provide affordable healthcare. However, there are many challenges ahead. For example, insufficient funds, quality of services and availability of infrastructure. Even though the government has set aside a large amount in current budget allocation, experts believe that the fund requirement can easily grow manifold making the program unaffordable for the government. Then comes quality of services and infrastructure, even though most of the services in the government-run hospitals are free, however, quality of these services and long queues make them unattractive. India has only 1 doctor for 1674 patients and government hospitals are not able to support the existing number of patients. The government should make efforts to create additional infrastructure to support the patients. Ayushman Bharat program already faced a blow when West Bengal government said NO to implement the scheme in the state.
It can easily be summarized that the government’s Ayushman Bharat program is a unique scheme. Indian public has always been in need of basic healthcare facilities since independence. NAMOCare has potential to turn around the situation on poor healthcare infrastructure in the country. Whether this is implemented correctly to the benefit of the greater good or not, is still to be seen.