PMJAY-Ayushman Bharat: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY)-Ayushman Bharat terming it as “the biggest government-sponsored healthcare scheme in the world.” While PM Modi has claimed that the number of beneficiaries of the scheme “is almost equal to the population of Canada, Mexico and the US taken together”, Mewat in Haryana, declared as India’s most backward district by Niti Aayog earlier this year, has been eagerly waiting for the benefits of the scheme.
Once implemented, the “game-changer initiative to serve the poor” can come as a godsend for districts like Mewat where patients had to visit unregistered doctors or quacks for panacea, officials say, adding that the trouble with patients receiving such treatment is that once the disease escalates, there is little they can do for them except referring them to bigger health centres close to the district or in Delhi or Jaipur.
Officials also told IE that one of the biggest advantages of PMJAY is that it allows national portability. Under this, a resident of Mewat is entitled to free hospitalisation at an empanelled hospital anywhere in the country.
While the scheme’s benefits listed out by the government are aplenty, the implementation will also have its fair share of challenges. Among them is the fact that the 100-bed Al Afia district hospital and the 500-bed SKHM in Nalhar are the only two government facilities part of the rollout in Mewat. These, in effect, will be the two easily accessible centres for patients to avail the benefits of the scheme.
In a series of ground reports on how PMJAY will impact healthcare in India’s most backward district, The Indian Express found that 4.58 lakh people or around 57,370 families out of a total population of 11 lakh, who were identified from the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011, are eligible for PMJAY in Mewat.
Besides, there have been some teething troubles too. The government has distributed “gold card” that entitles beneficiaries to reimbursement under PMJAY. “In many cases, the ID document is the old ration card where numbers are written by hand. Also, the system often comes up with records of different families in different districts for the same document. We have also been told not to forward any case where Aadhaar is not available. The system is not accepting any other ID card,” an official at a hospital said.
The district nodal officer for PMJAY Renu Sharma said, “We have been informally told to accept only those with Aadhaar and whose biometrics match.” According to the Health Ministry and the National Health Agency, which implements the scheme, any official ID document can be used to verify beneficiaries. And Haryana State Health Agency CEO Dr Saket Kumar denies that any instruction has been issued to restrict verification to Aadhaar. “This should not be the case. There is no such issue,” Kumar was quoted as saying by IE.
The ambitious Ayushman Bharat scheme provides coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family annually, benefiting more than 50 crore people for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation through a network of empanelled health care providers. PM Modi said that more than 1,300 ailments are covered under it, including heart diseases, kidney and liver disorders and diabetes.