The Narendra Modi-led central government’s ambitious plans to roll out a comprehensive health cover for the poor and weaker sections of society has drawn contrary reactions from opposite ends of the spectrum. Over 10 days after the Union Budget 2018 proposed to offer a health cover of Rs 5 lakh for 10 crore families, the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has claimed that it can roll out the scheme in two months if the required funds are released by the Centre, West Bengal has become the first state to opt out of the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), saying it would not waste the state’s hard-earned resources on the programme.
UP Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh said Tuesday that the state can roll out a scheme for 1.5 crore families within two months if the Centre releases the money. Singh told The Indian Express that the state government was working on a Rs 2.5 lakh top-up for Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) covering 1.5 crore families, adding that the government was ready for rollout when the NHPS was announced. “We can announce NHPS in two months if we get the money; all our groundwork has been done. I think we will be the first state to launch NHPS,” Singh said. The RSBY that provides a cover of Rs 30,000 for migrant workers was set to see a push in the cover to Rs 2,80,000 before NHPS was announced, Singh said.
Things were not upbeat on the opposite end of the political spectrum. West Bengal, which is ruled by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, has said that it is not going to “waste” its resources on the NHPS since it has a scheme of its own. Addressing a public meeting in Krishnanagar on Tuesday, Mamata wondered why the state should contribute 40 percent to the scheme when it has one of its own. A state will have its own scheme if it has the resources, the CM said, pointing out that the state had already enrolled 50 lakh people under its own Swasthya Sathi programme.
“We have done it even after the Centre takes away Rs 48,000 crore a year for debt-servicing the loan liability left behind by the preceding CPM government,” said Mamata. Preliminary calculations by NITI Aayog for NHPS, meanwhile, have put the bill at Rs 12,000 crore based on a premium of Rs 1,082 per family per year. While the Centre will bear 60 percent of the cost, states will have to bear the rest.
While the UP government sounds upbeat on the roll-out of the NHPS, the implementation would still depend upon the release of funds by the Centre and get its own house in order. Its tendering process has already been dragged into litigation by one insurance firm, and Singh said that for a Rs 2,80,000 cover for 1.5 crore families, the state government had got bids in the range of Rs 400-500 per annum. Singh further said UP has already chosen families on the basis of Socio Economic Caste Census data as envisioned in the NHPS plan.