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Promises to Keep!

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team must be congratulated for securing a historic second election victory. As they take charge for a second term, it is time for the powers that be to turn on their governance lens. A long-term horizon is now available to complete the tasks they set out to do five years back.

The BJP election manifesto, Sankalp Patra, promised Health for All. Health insurance under Ayushman Bharat is targeted for 500 million people, which comprises 40 percent of the poorest. Eighteen lakh people have benefitted so far. Challenges, such as making the scheme financially viable, making timely payments for the 15,000 empaneled hospitals (50 percent are private), covering their marginal cost, are aspects which need to be addressed continually by the department of health research and DGHS teams. 150,000 health and wellness centers (HWCs) are planned to be set up by 2022. Till date, 17,150 HWCs have become functional. Provisioning of telemedicine and diagnostic laboratory facilities at these centers need to be put in place. An essential-devices list and a separate pricing policy for medical devices need to be created.

Niti Aayog estimates that nearly 2500 more hospitals will be constructed in various parts of the country in the next five years. The advisory prepared by the Aayog has recommended states to ensure easy and fast availability of land for opening of hospitals, facilitate clearances under departments with specified timelines, sanction soft loans for new hospitals, and provide services such as uninterrupted electricity at residential rates. One medical college in every district, increasing the number of MBBS and postgraduate medical seats, and increasing availability of nurses, pharmacists, and other paramedical personnel are some other pledges made in the Sankalp Patra.

 Linking the primary centers with the hospitalization plan, a sophisticated IT system, and a strong anti-fraud approach would enable monitor the scheme. Keeping cost under control and the program sustainable would require better purchasing policies for medical supplies and drugs, and an increased focus on providing preventative health services like vaccines.

It is time to pay back the debt owed to the voters who have exhibited faith, and what better than delivering the promise by 2022, when India marks the 75th anniversary of its Independence!

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