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Experts feel govt National Health Protection Scheme ‘old wine in new bottle’

THE ASIAN AGE. | ANIMESH SINGH
Published : Feb 4, 2018, 2:00 am IST
Updated : Feb 4, 2018, 4:12 am IST

The Union health ministry and states will have to work out these aspects, sources said.

Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister of Narendra Modi-led NDA government presented the Union budget 2018-19 on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)
 Arun Jaitley, Finance Minister of Narendra Modi-led NDA government presented the Union budget 2018-19 on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The much-hyped National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), announced by finance minister Arun Jaitley and for which Rs 2,000 crore has been allocated in the Union Budget for 2018-19, has been termed by experts as “old wine in a new bottle”. It had been announced by the NDA government in its 2016-17 Budget also. However, highly placed sources said that with the Centre keen on keeping the focus of the budgetary exercise on the poor and farmers, the scheme was re-introduced with higher insurance coverage, which is now hiked to Rs 5 lakh per family annually from the earlier Rs 1 lakh per family.

While the scope of coverage under the updated version of the NHPS has been widened, and it will be funded under a 60:40 ratio by the Centre and states, several ends are yet to be tied up despite the scheme having been announced in the Budget. Sources in the know said certain aspects are yet to be worked out like whether serious and terminal illnesses like kidney ailments, cancer and tuberculosis will be covered under it.

Whether states will pay for premium amounts is another aspect which is to be discussed with them, sources privy to details said. Also with several states like Kerala, Andhra Prad-esh and Rajasthan already running similar schemes, whether there is any consensus between them and the Centre on implementing NHPS, they added.

Scepticism on smooth implementation of the scheme stems from the fact that while Niti Aayog and the health ministry have worked out that around Rs 11,000 crore is estimated for premium payment in the first year. Sources indicated that even if around Rs 5,000 crore is realised in the first year then additional funds will be needed in future to run the scheme. Thus indicating that taking states on board could be a challenging task.

The Union health ministry and states will have to work out these aspects, sources said.

In its current avatar, the scheme will offer an insurance coverage up to Rs 5 lakh per family annually for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. Cover will be provided to over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, the finance minister had said in the Budget speech.

Sources privy to the developments told this newspaper that though the NHPS had been announced by Mr Jaitley in his Budget two years ago, the PMO was not happy with the scheme’s outreach.

With this being the last full Budget of the NDA government before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the high-profile NHPS and the announcement to fix minimum support price (MSP) for crops are being considered two major sops for the poor and farmers.

Tags: national health protection scheme, arun jaitley, union budget for 2018-19
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi