At Vallipuram, a small village in Tamil Nadu's Kancheepuram district, two-year old Varun's parents were shattered last year when doctors told them about a hole in the child's heart.
Varun's father, a construction labourer, could not have afforded an open heart surgery that would have cost him more than Rs 1 lakh.
It was the state government's free health insurance scheme that helped the family. The two-year-old underwent a heart surgery at Chennai's Apollo hospitals.
Now in kindergarten, Varun is healthy and happy. His mother S Keerthika says, "The surgery was carried out well in time, and we were able to save our child. Without this scheme, it would have taken us long to arrange the money."
Sixty-year-old S Lakhsmipathy, a farmer, also used the government scheme for the surgical removal of a gland that had developed on his throat. After facing crop losses for several years due to drought, he says it was impossible for him to afford the surgery.
"The scheme has helped others like me. And I've a suggestion to improve it also. People from remote villages have to travel a lot to reach hospitals. We don't have proper transport system. So like 108 ambulances, if mobile clinics could come here at least once a week for medical checkup, it would be really helpful."
Families are eligible for Rs 35.5 lakh cover for organ transplant or major surgeries. The only condition -- beneficiaries must earn Rs 72,000 a year or less. The specially abled people have no such restrictions.
The cover includes 38 diagnostic procedures and nine high-end procedures including renal, heart, lung and liver transplants.
The state also aims to set up one government medical college hospital in every district. With a network of 129 government and government medical college hospitals in the state, district authorities say these hospitals are able to recover 40 per cent of the premium paid by the government in the form of payments by insurance companies. This fund, they say, is used to expand hospitals and to enhance infrastructure.
However, many want the government to relax eligibility norms.
P Ramu a shop owner, says, "I earn around Rs 10,000 a month but I'm not eligible for insurance. Healthcare is so expensive and the cost of living is so high, isn't it unfair to deny me insurance? My annual income is Rs 1,20,000, how I'd be able to afford a surgery say that would cost me more than a lakh? Should I lie about my income? Hope the central government scheme takes care of people like me."
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