Three days after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rejected the Centre’s budget proposal that seeks to provide Rs 5 lakh as health coverage to over 10 crore families, saying that the state would do better to spend its resources on its own health insurance scheme, officials from the state Health Department are participating in a two-day workshop on the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) that began in New Delhi on Thursday.
According to The Indian Express, the workshop witnessed discussions on many aspects pertaining to the rollout of the NHPS and also took stock of best practices in existing state health cover programmes. The suggestions made on Thursday will be discussed today after the working groups make presentations before an audience that will have officials from the Health Ministry, Niti Aayog, and states in attendance.
The participation of officials from West Bengal is peculiar given Mamata’s public rejection of the NHPS earlier this week. Addressing a public meeting on Tuesday, Mamata said that West Bengal would not waste its hard-earned resources by paying 40 percent of the cost of NHPS and that the existing scheme rolled out by the state was good enough. The NHPS envisages a cost-sharing mechanism between the Centre and states in a ratio of 60:40, respectively.
In her address, Mamata asked why West Bengal should contribute 40 percent to the Centre’s scheme when it already has a similar programme of its own. She also pointed to the Swasthya Sathi programme and claimed that it has already enrolled 50 lakh people. Meanwhile, Principal Secretary – Health, West Bengal, Anil Verma confirmed the state’s participation in the workshop to IE. “My officers are there at the meeting,” he was quoted as saying.
The Centre is believed to be aiming for an August rollout of the NHPS, preferably around Independence Day. Uttar Pradesh, also ruled by the BJP, has said that it can roll out the scheme in the state within two months, provided the Centre releases the required funds.
UP Health minister Siddharth Nath Singh had said earlier this week that it already has the groundwork ready as the state government was already in plans to increase the health coverage under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) covering 1.5 crore families and was ready for its rollout when the NHPS was announced in the Union Budget.