On September 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rolled out the Ayushman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyan (PMJAY) from Jharkhand's capital Ranchi, described as the world's largest government-funded healthcare programme, meant to provide Rs 5 lakh insurance cover to 10 crore families.
The government will take care of the insurance premium for all 10 crore families. But despite the big claims there are still no clear answers on how much it will cost.
In the Union Budget, Rs. 2,000 crore was announced for the first year.
Speaking to NDTV in August 2018, Dr Indu Bhushan, the CEO of Ayushman Bharat, said Rs. 6,000 to 8,000 crore will be required.
This weekend, Dr VK Paul of NITI Aayog told NDTV that the amount could be around Rs. 3,500 crore. "The government initially allocated Rs. 2,000 crore and added Rs. 1,500 crore more and the Centre has made it clear that they are flexible with budget allocation," said Dr Paul.
Also this weekend, Mr Bhushan said, "Right now, the issue is we ourselves are not very clear how much money is needed because we are doing this for first time so in terms of discovering prices, premium in different states, many states are going into trust model so it not clear."
Many have questioned the math behind the numbers, specifically the amount of premium that the government has projected it will need to pay.
If one goes by the figure allotted in the budget, Rs. 2,000 crore, the premium per family will come to Rs. 200 per year.
If the amount goes up to Rs. 8,000 crore as suggested by the CEO of Ayushman Bharat, that increases the premium to Rs. 800 per year.
But experts say even assuming the maximum figure (of Rs. 800), it may not be enough.
For instance, Rajasthan's health insurance scheme which has a lower insurance cover of Rs. 3 lakh has a premium of about Rs. 1,200 per family per year.
There is also confusion over the funds for another part of 'Modicare' which is its promise to revamp India's ailing primary health centres. Rs 1,200 crore has been allotted to overhaul 1.5 lakh primary health centres, bringing the cost per centre to Rs. 80,000 only.
Even hiring 4 nursing staff members at one centre for monthly salary of Rs 20,000 per person would exhaust this budget, raising questions as to how 'Modicare' will transform India's primary healthcare.
Dr Paul of NITI Aayog, while speaking on NDTV's show 'Reality Check' on Tuesday claimed that the government intends to spend Rs. 17 lakh per centre, and that the Rs. 1,200 crore is only for the first phase of 15,000 centres, not the entire 1.5 lakhs.
But according to a government release issued by the Press Information Bureau from the Finance Ministry on February 1, 2018, Rs. 1,200 crore is the allotted money for the entire 1.5 lakh wellness centres across the country.
Moreover, even if one assumes Dr Paul's claim to be accurate, the cost of overhauling 15,000 centres at Rs 17 lakhs each comes to 2,550 crores, 1,350 crores more than the Rs 1,200 crore budget.