Presenting his last full Budget before the general elections due in 2019, Mr Jaitley provided a relatively small allocation of Rs 2,000 crore for the Ayushman Bharat health scheme, which he described as the world's largest government-funded healthcare programme. It aims to cover 50 crore people with medical insurance.
"I believe that once the work starts, the scheme will be fully implemented by the end of the year," Mr Jaitley said while replying to a discussion on the Budget in the Rajya Sabha.
In a post-Budget briefing on February 1, Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia had said it would take another six months for the scheme to be worked out.
The finance minister has subsequently clarified that the Rs 2,000 crore was an initial outlay and that more funds would be made available going ahead.
"The basic principle of such a scheme is that the numbers are very large, but hospitalisation expenses, on the other hand, are limited," he said. "If the numbers are very large, then the premium will be quite less. The Niti Aayog has made an initial assessment on this," he added.
Queried by members on the states' share of expenses on the national health scheme, Mr Jaitley said the working of the GST Council had shown the way of cooperation between the centre and the states in other areas.
"Let the NITI Aayog coordinate with the states on the modalities of sharing expenses," he said.