Mother Teresa once said poverty is not only being hungry and homeless, but being unwanted, untreated and uncared is the biggest form of poverty.
Successive governments in India over the past few decades have miserably failed to usher in healthcare reforms that could benefit the poorest of the poor.
Healthcare has never been a tool to garner votes and hence, has been blatantly ignored by governments in the past, with limited budgetary support to the ailing healthcare sector.
However, the Ayushman Bharat- National Health Protection Scheme (AB-NHPS) launched by the Narendra Modi government last year is among the most progressive and far-sighted schemes that could go a long way in providing healthcare benefits to the downtrodden.
Since its inception, more than 13 lakh deprived people have received treatment through the government’s praise-worthy Ayushman Bharat scheme and the number is just growing by leaps and bounds.
No government in the past had ever envisioned such an inclusive, pro-poor and reformist health policy that promises to be a game changer for India’s ailing health care sector.
For a nation that drastically lacks public sector healthcare infrastructure and where the rising out of the pocket private sector health care costs have made the sector highly unaffordable, the Ayushman Bharat scheme comes as a boon for millions of underprivileged ones.
The path-breaking health care scheme envisages to provide a floater healthcare cover of 5 lakh per family, based on a pragmatic entitlement formula that has been devised by the government on a transparent mechanism.
The scheme is targeted at poor, deprived rural families and an It is based on the SocioEconomic Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data that includes about 8.03 crore families in rural and 2.33 crore in urban areas that are likely to be entitled for the healthcare scheme.
In total, more than 10 crore families are likely to benefit from Ayushman Bharat, also named as Prime Minister’s Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY). By one reckoning, around 50 crore people are expected to be covered by this landmark scheme that promises to usher in landmark reforms in the country’s healthcare sector.
Even as India is increasingly becoming home to medical tourism and some world-class private sector healthcare facilities, albeit in select cities, the poor had scarcely benefitted from this development.
Each year millions are deprived of treatment due to lack of finances or secondary and tertiary healthcare across the length and breadth of the country.
However, Ayushman Bharat has created an unimaginable amalgamation of public as well as private sector healthcare that could go a long way in transforming the healthcare sector.
Scores of private sector hospitals are being empanelled in this ambitious health care scheme and the benefits are trickling down to the bottom of the value chain.
I’ve always held the view that previous health care schemes have either proved to be a farce or had never been able to address the ever-concerning healthcare issues in the country. But Ayushman Bharat has its heart in the right place and promises to address the key issues surrounding the healthcare sector.
Several studies and government data indicate that more than two-thirds of the country’s population is not covered through any health protection scheme and ends up paying their own medical expenses. Also, millions of Indians are pushed into poverty each year for paying sky-rocketing healthcare bills and tacking hospital emergencies.
However, a well concerted effort between the central and state governments could go a long way in the effective implementation of Ayushman Bharat that could pull out millions from the ambit of poverty that has been imposed due to spiraling health care bills.
It could also wean away a significant debt burden from the economically under-privileged that been reeling under increased health costs and uncertainty.
On a longer term, it could even usher in growth and entrepreneurship as it could give more fiscal stability to millions of deprived families across the country.
Over decades, health care has never been a core electoral issue. It isn’t something that could end up being a magnetic force for attracting voters or appeasing a wider category of rural people.
However, the Ayushman Bharat scheme brings in a lot of positivity for the health care sector, despite a lot of clamouring by many that it’s intended to attract voters and that its implementation is heck of a challenge.
We presently spend slightly just over 1% of our GDP on the health care sector, a figure that is abysmally low and equally alarming. But with Ayushman Bharat, the nation’s spending on the core health care sector is also expected to go up sharply with a wider implementation of the health protection scheme over the years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has undeniably shown a strong intent to boost the nation’s ailing health care sector and provide affordable healthcare for millions of people. However, it would be incumbent on the future governments to pick up the threads from here and ensure a smooth implementation for this landmark health scheme over posterity.
(The views and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article needn't reflect the views of Republic TV/ Republic World/ ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd.)