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Government goes big with Ayushman Bharat

Three days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the ramparts of Red Fort asked for full penetration of over half-a-dozen key government schemes to all beneficiaries, the National Health Authority (NHA) laid out an ambitious plan for a bigger roll-out of Ayushman Bharat Scheme to cover more beneficiaries this year.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, since taking over in June, has been pressing upon officials for massive acceleration of the scheme in line with the PM’s vision of providing free health insurance of Rs 5 lakh to over 50 crore beneficiaries in the country.

In a presentation to the minister on Wednesday — as the scheme completed 2 crore hospital admissions and 12 crore beneficiaries now have Ayushman Bharat cards — the NHA has now said it aims to deliver 10 crore Ayushman Bharat cards in this financial year alone and extend free hospitalisation benefit to 50 lakh people in a quarter. The scheme was launched in 2018.

This is a big target as it has taken the government three years to distribute Ayushman Bharat cards to 12 crore beneficiaries so far. Till the end of last year in fact, only 7.87 crore Ayushman Bharat cards had been distributed before a three-month campaign was launched at the start of 2021.

There is still a long way to go as there are 53 crore possible beneficiaries of the scheme as per the Socio-Economic Census of 2011. Minister Mandaviya was told that the NHA plans to issue cards to a total of 10 crore beneficiaries in this financial year (2021-22) by launching a mass campaign, taking the total numbers of issued cards by March next year to 19 crore.

Also, while it has taken nearly three years for the scheme to get two crore hospital admissions, the minister was told that the target of total three crore hospital admissions will be reached in a “much quicker time”.

The target going ahead is 50 lakh hospital admissions per quarter, the minister was told, which will be more than twice the highest number so far of 24 lakh admissions achieved under the scheme in the first quarter of 2021. During the second covid wave, the number had dropped to only 16 lakh during the second quarter (April-June) this year. In the present quarter, the government also expects to cross 24 lakh admissions.

Bid to Rationalise Package Cost to Lure Private Hospitals
Mandaviya was also told that a major issue in the scheme remains that private hospitals complain that the package rates under the scheme are very low and, hence, they are unable to extend the Ayushman Bharat scheme to the beneficiaries. Nearly 41% of the 22,988 hospitals empaneled under the scheme across the country are private hospitals.

The health minister was also told that an exercise is now underway to rationalise the package cost of hospital procedures so that the scheme becomes more appealing for private hospitals. However, there is expected to be only a marginal rise in the rates as the government contends it is offering volumes.

In his Independence Day speech on Sunday, PM had said that every poor of the country knows the importance of Ujjwala to Ayushman Bharat. “Today the speed of government schemes has increased and they are achieving the desired goals. We have progressed much faster than before. But it does not end here. We have to achieve saturation. All the villages should have roads, all the households should have bank accounts, all the beneficiaries should have Ayushman Bharat cards and all the eligible persons should get the benefit of Ujjwala Yojana and should have gas connections,” he had said. News18