AIR spotlight summary on “Ayushman Bharat-Healthcare Scheme”.
- The Government announced two major initiatives in health sector, as part of Ayushman Bharat programme. They are Health and Wellness Centre and National Health Protection Scheme. In the Budget 2018-19 the Finance Minister said that this was aimed at making path breaking interventions to address health holistically, in primary, secondary and tertiary care systems, covering both prevention and health promotion.
- Funding for healthcare has been a major concern in the country. After decades of independence we still lag behind in addressing healthcare delivery across the length and breadth of the country.
- Under the existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), poor families get an annual coverage of ₹30,000. RSBY will be subsumed under National Health Protection Scheme. Several State governments have implemented or supplemented health protection schemes that provide varying coverage. Ayushman Bharat programme builds on these schemes.
Health and Wellness Centre
- The National Health Policy, 2017 has envisioned Health and Wellness Centres as the foundation of India’s health system. Under this 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people.
- These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services. These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. The Budget has allocated Rs.1200 crore for this flagship programme. Contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged.
National Health Protection Scheme
- National Health Protection Scheme will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. This will be the world’s largest government funded health care programme. Adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this programme.
- This takes India towards the goal of universal health coverage and building Swasth Bharat. The bottom 40% of the population can now access healthcare at secondary and tertiary level institutions belonging to the public health system and private health system.
- The scheme involves enagemmnet with the state governments because the scheme will be delivered by the states. The states are the custodians and the implementers of the scheme.
- These two health sector initiatives under Ayushman Bharat Programme will build a New India by 2022 and ensure enhanced productivity, well being and avert wage loss and impoverishment. These Schemes will also generate lakhs of jobs, particularly for women. Challenge will be scheme implementation and governance.
- The scheme would create tremendous awareness of health insurance, the same way Jan Dhan did for bank accounts. People in countries that provided higher health insurance cover had a higher life expectancy. The same will happen in India now with this announcement.
Enhancing Accessibility of quality Medical Education and Healthcare
- The Finance Minister said that in order to further enhance accessibility of quality medical education and health care, 24 new Government Medical Colleges and Hospitals will be set up, by up-grading existing district hospitals in the country.
- Access to tertiary healthcare in India currently faces a huge challenge, both in terms of infrastructure and qualified medical professionals, especially in rural areas. The move to open one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies will help in addressing the challenge related to availability of healthcare professionals in hospitals, improve access to healthcare and bridge the demand-supply gap.
- The relevance of technology and digitisation is imperative as we look at newer ways of healthcare delivery services. So while the potential is immense, the government now needs to put in strong emphasis on the adoption of technology by the entire healthcare ecosystem to provide accessible and affordable patient care to the last mile of the country.
- The initiatives will play a critical role in helping the country meet its social development goals. However, the Central government needs to collaborate successfully with State governments and the industry, besides focussing aggressively on the operational and implementation aspect of these initiatives.