New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in budget for fiscal year 2018-19, has announced the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), which seeks to provide health insurance cover worth Rs. 5 lakh per family to over 10 crore economically vulnerable families. Approximately 50 crore beneficiaries are expected to avail this scheme. The government has allocated Rs 2,000 crore for this scheme. While critics have questioned its implementation, experts welcomed India's attempt towards universal health coverage.
What is the official name of National Health Protection Scheme?
Though the scheme in the budget documents of the Health Ministry does not reflect a name, Mr Nadda began his press conference by calling it 'Namo-Care'. Calling it a bold and revolutionary budget, Mr Nadda said, "It (the health protection cover) has addressed issues of primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare. Namo-Care has covered all components of healthcare."
Niti Aayog press conference, led by CEO Amitabh Kant, member Dr Vinod Paul and advisor Alok Kumar, presented details of the scheme. The title read- 'Ayushman Bharat'.
How much is allocated for NHPS?
The government has allocated an amount of Rs 2,000 crore. Mr Nadda said, "Rs 2,000 crore have been allocated for the scheme and the states will have to implement it with help from the Centre. The Centre will bear 60 per cent of the cost while 40 per cent will be borne by the states."
NITI Aayog estimates NHPS to reach 50 per cent beneficiaries in the first year. "This will be dependent on the states' acceptance, for which it will need a budget of Rs. 6000 crore in 2018-19," said Mr Kant.
With no cap on family size, it will be based on a paperless, cashless and Aadhaar-linked (though not mandatory) model.
Dr Paul said, "For 10 crore families, we would need between Rs 10,000 to 12,000 crore."
Health Economist Dr Indraneil Mukhopadhyay said, "The scheme would mean the government would be required to spend at least Rs. 1.2 lakh crore in premiums on private health insurance firms to extend coverage to 50 crore people."
Are all states on board?
Sources in the Health Ministry told NDTV that most states are on board and welcome the scheme. States that already have their own health insurance scheme will have an option to subsume the centre's. Each state will also have an option to choose between the Insurance Company model and the Trust Model.
Under the NHPS scheme, most of the secondary and tertiary treatments at all public and empanelled private hospitals will be covered.
As per NITI Aayog, rural private hospitals will be encouraged to become a part of the scheme and hospitals will be incentivized for improving quality of healthcare.
Health Ministry sources also told NDTV that a major component would be to strengthen the IT structure of the scheme that will automatically detect fraud and trigger an alert against any malpractice. "Corporate and private hospitals will have to maintain high standards of professionalism and change with the times. Malpractices like what we have seen in the past will not be acceptable," said a senior health official.
Public Health expert Dipa Sinha said, "This insurance scheme is based on the premise of in-patient care and hopes that private sector will deliver. The private sector and most of the accredited hospitals do not exist in remote rural areas. The issue of healthcare access remains. We need to strengthen primary healthcare systems and the budget does not focus on that."
However, World Health Organisation Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called it a significant step. "The initiative that is planned to benefit nearly 100 million families and 500 million people, would be the world's largest government-funded health protection programmes, when rolled out," he told NDTV.
When will NHPS roll-out?
Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said that it 'will take at least six months for the scheme to roll-out'. It will also take time to decide an insurer through a tender, he added.
The NITI Aayog, however, provided a timeline. Dr Paul said, "The roll-out of the scheme will be complete within the financial year 2018 and we will see a complete roll-out by October 2."