The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), announced in the Union Budget 2018, is arguably the world’s largest government funded health care programme.
The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), announced in the Union Budget 2018, is arguably the world’s largest government funded health care programme. Under this scheme, the government will provide health coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family (per annum) for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation, which will benefit over 10 crore low income families (covering nearly 50 crore beneficiaries). This will be done partially through over 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres that will provide comprehensive health care, including treatment for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services, under the Ayushman Bharat programme.
Focus on healthcare
NHPS is highly relevant for a country like India where the cost of healthcare treatment is very high which takes it beyond the reach of a larger population. With the government laying emphasis on the NHPS and the creation of the Ayushman Bharat wellness centres, healthcare will be given prime importance.
Opportunities for India Inc
Since, the scope of NHPS is huge; the government expects contribution from the private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions which can adopt these centres. This provides an opportunity to India Inc which is mandated to spend at least 2% of average net profit on corporate social responsibility activities.
Opportunity for insurance sector
The insurance sector is anticipated to receive a boost once the NHPS scheme is implemented. For this, insurers will need to develop significant infrastructure to service the policyholders.
Reforms in health sector
For the healthcare industry, especially large hospitals, the scheme, once implemented, is expected to trigger long-pending reforms like standardisation of treatment protocols and care, provide categorisation and cost rationalisation besides a separate healthcare inflation index. Ayushman Bharat wellness centres are expected to bring down healthcare costs across the country also.
Ayushman Bharat is a plan beyond healthcare; it will help enhance overall productivity and reduce wage losses and impoverishment. Infrastructure including new medical colleges and hospitals at almost all district levels will be created besides improving existing district hospitals in the country. With a good IT platform and interconnected stakeholders, blockchain technology may be attempted for smooth flow of information.
Educate to improve utilisation
The utilisation of health insurance will have to be improved through an aggressive education and financial literacy campaign. As beneficiaries become aware and seek their rights, this will change. At the same time, the government may extend the scheme to the above poverty line population without any subsidy since the benefits—other than monetary—would also help them cut healthcare costs. While the intention of the plan is noble, it will have to be implemented with adequate resources apart from a strong functional framework for insurance and healthcare sectors that would reduce wastage. NHPS should not be limited to being a health insurance scheme that offers financial protection but should be one that can trigger reforms needed to strengthen India’s public health sector.
The writer is member of executive management, HDFC ERGO General Insurance