While the ailments for which the Ayush ministry is seeking inclusion under PMJAY, including mental illnesses like clinical depression, can be treated or managed with allopathic treatment, bringing Ayush treatment under PMJAY is a key step towards encouraging alternative medicine.
Given how the government has been a staunch advocate of strengthening alternative medicine under the aegis of the Ayush (ayurveda, yoga, unani, siddha, and homoeopathy) ministry, it is rather odd that these forms of treatment have been kept out of cashless insurance coverage under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY). While the Ayush ministry, as per a report in Hindu BusinessLine, has proposed the inclusion of 19 ayurveda, unani and siddha, eight yoga and six naturopathy treatments under PMJAY, health ministry officials seem to believe that including these under the scheme could lead to fraud, given how it would be difficult to control for leakages in a scenario where it is “difficult to ascertain that hospitalisation is for correct purposes”.
While the ailments for which the Ayush ministry is seeking inclusion under PMJAY, including mental illnesses like clinical depression, can be treated or managed with allopathic treatment, bringing Ayush treatment under PMJAY is a key step towards encouraging alternative medicine. Experts say the lack of standardisation in treatment within Ayush disciplines means anybody can open up a centre and bilk the government and patients. The government must pay heed to this. Given how most alternative medicine is proprietary—for instance, the composition of most ayurvedic medicines is based not just on texts, but also on the practitioner’s own tweaking of recipes—this will be a difficult proposition.
Against such a backdrop, the Ayush ministry working with AIIMS to develop protocols for specific treatments, or using findings of scientific research to bolster evidence of efficacy, will help in the long run. The ministry, meanwhile, needs to focus on compiling treatment templates from the texts and making them available to the National Health Authority to make a stronger case for inclusion.