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Punjab Launches Blockbuster Health Insurance Scheme

Punjab is aiming to extend health insurance to more than three-quarters of the state’s population in the form of a blockbuster scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojana.

The scheme was launched on August 20th to coincide with the 75th birthday of Rajiv Gandhi,who served as Prime Minister from 1984 until his assassination in 1991. The scheme was launched in the Mohali district of the state, where cards were issued to its first eleven beneficiaries. The scheme provides cashless health insurance to beneficiaries, who can avail 1,396 treatment packages in 450 empanelled hospitals, 200 of which are government-run.

The Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojana incorporates and expands the coverage of the Centre’s Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) or ‘Ayushman Bharat’, covering approximately 76 percent of the state’s population. The families covered under Ayushman Bharat would represent only twelve percent of the state’s population.

For the Ayushman Bharat-eligible families, the costs of the scheme will be shared by the Centre and the Punjab state government under Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. The cost of insuring the remaining families will be borne by the Punjab state government, who will pay Rs 333 crore worth of health insurance premiums. The Centre will contribute Rs 57 crore.

“It took the Government several months to draw the roadmap for the implementation of the cashless treatment scheme to cover 76 percent of its population,” Chief Minister Singh said at the launch. This is “in sharp contrast to the twelve percent that would have been covered otherwise under the Central Government’s PMJAY scheme,” he added. “Similar schemes in other states had covered up to a mere thirty percent of their population.”

A number of states have incorporated Ayushman Bharat and their own schemes, such as Kerala. In this vein, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has touted the flexibility of Ayushman Bharat, telling Lok Sabha MPs last month that “states are free to add additional families at their own cost.” He added at the time that 10.74 crore families were covered under Ayushman Bharat, which provides health insurance coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family per year to economically vulnerable families. The merging of state-level health insurance models and the national scheme has been floated as an idea of expanding the reach of Ayushman Bharat for some months, with the potential to cover 75 percent of India’s population in this way. – Health Issues India