Budget 2018: Union Finance Minister announced ‘world’s largest healthcare programme’ in his Budget 2018 speech. Two new initiatives will be launched under the Ayushman Bharat Programme. Under the programme, Jaitley announced a new flagship National Health Protection Scheme, providing a health insurance cover of ₹5 lakh a family per annum which will cover 10 crore vulnerable families, with approximately 50 crore beneficiaries.
Budget 2018: Just like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 in the United States became popular by the name of Obamacare, the Ayushman Bharat programme announced by the Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Union Budget 2018 speech is gaining traction as ‘Modicare’ in India. As per the provisions of the scheme, the government has announced to provide Rs 5 lakh annual cover to 10 crore families each for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. The move is being hailed as the world’s biggest healthcare initiative by the incumbent government. For now, a total allocation of Rs 1,200 crore has been made for the flagship programme.
Jaitley, in his Budget 2018 speech on Thursday, said the initiative will help build a “New India” by 2022 and ensure enhanced productivity, well-being and avert wage loss and impoverishment. He further said the scheme is also expected to generate lakhs of jobs, particularly for women.
According to BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao, “Modi Healthcare” is set to bigger than Obamacare in the health sector across the world.
The government has also invited contribution from the private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in extending their support to the scheme. In order to further enhance the accessibility of health care, Finance Minister announced the government will be setting up 24 new Government Medical Colleges and Hospitals by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country.
Noted thinker Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the vice-chancellor of Ashoka University, has also hailed the move as historic. In an article, for The Indian Express, he writes the healthcare scheme is an “extraordinary gesture” which also highlights PM Modi’s ability to think of big schemes that can change the narrative.”
However, at a time when the government is already slipping on its fiscal deficit target, it will be no less than a challenge for the incumbent to allocate proper funds for the smooth running of the scheme.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has pointed this out in a tweet after the tabling of the Budget 2018, “One good thing in #Budget2018 is the health insurance scheme to cover 500 million Indians. But the budget figures show no serious allocation for it,& the Fasal Bima Yojana has already proved a boon for insurance companies more than the insured. Will it prove another #jumla?.”
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram says financial constraint that lies in front of the government that could hamper the smooth implementation of the scheme.
In a country where most people don’t have a health insurance and the per capita income is low, the initiative is surely a welcome move. As of now, one can only hope for the proper execution of the scheme so that the country can actually usher in a new era, which the Prime Minister famously calls ‘New India’.