The government has decided to extend the social security schemes run by the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) to all 744 districts of the country by the end of 2022.
Currently, the ESI scheme is fully implemented in 443 districts and partially in 153 districts, whereas 148 districts are not covered under it.
The scheme was launched on February 24, 1952 in Delhi and Kanpur covering 25,000 employees. The number of ESIC insured persons (IPs) and beneficiaries which include their kin, as on March 31, 2021, stood at 34 million and 131 million respectively.
At present, the ESIC extends medical facilities through a network of 154 ESI hospitals, 1,570 dispensaries and 76 dispensaries-cum-branch offices.
The decision to extend the scheme across the country was taken at the 188th meeting of the ESIC held in Hyderabad on Sunday.
During the meeting, ESIC also decided to set up 23 new 100-bedded hospitals and a number of dispensaries across the country to ensure the delivery of quality medical care service to the insured workers and their dependents.
“As setting up new hospitals takes time, ESIC in its meeting decided to allow insured workers and their family members to avail cashless medical care services through Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojna (ABPMJAY)-empanelled hospitals in all the areas where ESI Scheme is partially implemented or is to be implemented or where ESIC existing health care facilities are limited. Beneficiaries of ESI scheme in 157 districts are already availing cashless medical care through this arrangement,” it said.
The ESI scheme is applicable to all factories and other establishments employing 10 or more persons earning up to `21,000 a month. In the contributory scheme, the employer contributes 3.25% and the employee 0.75% of the wages towards the scheme.
ESIC extends free medical care to its members or insured persons (IPs), and members of their families, called beneficiaries. There is no ceiling on expenditure on the treatment. Medical care is also provided to retired and permanently disabled insured persons and their spouses on payment of a token annual premium of `120. IPs are also protected during contingencies such as sickness, maternity, death or disablement due to employment injury or occupational disease. It also provides unemployment benefit to IPs.
The ESI Act, 1948, which governs the employees’ state insurance corporation (ESIC), does not apply to unorgansied sector now. As reported by FE, the government plans to bring in all of the 380 million unorgansied sector workers under its fold. The corporation was also directed to enhance its medical infrastructure by using its over `1-trillion reserve fund, lying mostly in fixed-income instruments with the banks and extend its reach to all districts of the country.
The social security code, passed in September 2020, provides the right to health security under the ESIC to the maximum possible workers. In addition to this, the option of the ESIC is proposed to extended to plantation workers, gigs and platform workers and institutions with less than 10 workers. If there is risky work in an institute, that institute will inevitably be brought under the purview of the ESIC, even if it is a sole labourer.