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Budget 2018: Only healthy India can prosper, says Arun Jaitley

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Feb 2, 2018, 6:27 am IST
Updated : Feb 2, 2018, 6:27 am IST

Jaitley said India cannot realise its demographic dividend without its citizens being healthy.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley meets President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan before presenting the Union Budget 2018-19 in the Parliament. (Photo: Twitter | ANI)
 Finance Minister Arun Jaitley meets President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan before presenting the Union Budget 2018-19 in the Parliament. (Photo: Twitter | ANI)

New Delhi/Chennai: Unveiling the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme, finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday announced the setting up of National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) to offer coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per year to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.

Noting that only a “swasth Bharat” (healthy India) can be a “samriddha Bharat” (prosperous India), Mr Jaitley said India cannot realise its demographic dividend without its citizens being healthy. The NHSP, he said, will cover approximately 50 crore people.

“This will be the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme. Adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this programme,” the finance minister said.

Secondary medical care is provided by a specialist or facility upon referral by a primary care physician. Tertiary care is specialised consultative health care, usually for inpatients.

While not specific allocation has been made for the scheme, at the current commercial rate of premium, NHPS could cost the government up to Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Experts are unclear about how the government will implement the scheme without specifying allocation.

At present, the government has a Rashtriya Swastya Bima Yojana (RSBY) which provides a cover of Rs 30,000 per family. While the RSBY has received an increased allocation of Rs 2,000 crore in the Budget, NHPS has not got any.

“If we go by the current commercial rate of 3 per cent premium, for a family of five the government will have to pay a premium of Rs 15,000. For 10 crore families, this is would cost Rs 1.5 lakh crore,” an expert said on condition of anonymity. “Announcing the scheme at this time looks like it is politically inspired,” he added.

The total Gross Written Premium of the general insurance industry was Rs 1.7 lakh crore last year. The entire budgetary allocation for family and healthcare is just Rs 52,800 crore, up 11.5 per cent from last year’s Rs 47,353 crore.  

“I think the government will find some way to fund it. We need to know whether Central and state governments will be funding it and whether private insurers also will be included in the scheme. But it is definitely a good intention to cater to the masses and overdue for a long time,” said Antony Jacob, CEO, Apollo Munich Health Insurance.

“The previous RSBY scheme had become almost defunct. This scheme would probably subsume all the other health cover schemes like RSBY. The target population will be the same BPL and Antodaya beneficiaries. But we will have to see how government will enrol the beneficiaries as the earlier scheme had met with frauds in enrollment. We will have to see whether the government will do a door-to-door enrollment or based on the BPL data,” Sanjay Pande, executive director, Finsall Networks, said.

Mr Jaitley also announced two major initiatives as part of the Ayushman Bharat programme aimed at addressing health holistically, covering both prevention and health promotion.

To enhance accessibility of quality medical education and health care, the Budget announced setting up of 24 new Government Medical Colleges and Hospitals by upgrading existing district hospitals. This would ensure that there is at least one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies and at least one government medical college in each state, Mr Jaitley said.

The finance minister said that National Health Policy envisioned health and wellness centres as the foundation of India’s health system and committed Rs 1,200 crore to it. This would go towards 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres to bring healthcare closer to the homes of people.

Noting that tuberculosis claims more lives every year than any other infectious disease, and mainly affects poor and malnourished people, he said, “My government has, therefore, decided to allocate additional Rs 600 crore to provide nutritional support to all TB patients at the rate of Rs 500 per month for the duration of their treatment”.

Lakhs of families in India have to borrow or sell assets to receive indoor treatment in hospitals, Mr Jaitley said, emphasising that his government is seriously concerned about poor and vulnerable families.

Tags: arun jaitley, national health protection scheme, union budget 2018-19, rashtriya swastya bima yojana
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi