The Kerala government will announce a Rs 1000 crore health insurance scheme in its budget on 31 January, making the state-sponsored health insurance almost universal in a state that has India’s top healthcare indicators. Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac told regional news channel Manorama News on Monday that the new health insurance scheme would be a comprehensive scheme but he refused to divulge further details. According to one official who is working on the budget, the state will pitch the new scheme as better than Ayushman Bharat (AB), the flagship health insurance project rolled out by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government. The state’s ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the BJP is engaged in a political battle locally, and the move could be seen as the Left taking on the BJP on the plank of social security and development ahead of the upcoming general election this year. “This will be a tweaking of all existing schemes on the topic, including Ayushman Bharat. We will bring it all under one umbrella. It will reduce the insurance premium and widen the base, resulting in making health insurance near-universal in Kerala at a much cheaper rate than Ayushman Bharat,” the person said.
Ayushman Bharat covers roughly 18 lakh families in Kerala, while the current one will cover about 43 lakh families, he added. Under Ayushman Bharat, anyone in the country can buy health insurance of ₹5 lakh for a premium of Rs 5000-6000. The scheme is paid for by the Center and states in a 60:40 ratio. The Kerala government had opposed to the scheme’s implementation, claiming it would in effect reduce the number of beneficiaries of health insurance in Kerala. “Kerala, with a record of the highest per capita expenditure on healthcare, does not need prompting to take care of people’s health. Just as in RSBY we want to customize the new scheme. Meanwhile we shall expose hollow claims of AB,” Isaac had tweeted on 30 September. Isaac’s budget will also be the first after to be presented after floods ravaged Kerala’s economy last year. The state was allowed to impose a 1 percent additional cess on the goods and services tax for two years to cope with the calamity, but Isaac said the move would not result in inflation. Traders with Rs 1.5 crore turnover will be exempted from the cess, he told Manorama News. – Livemint