Source: The Hitavada      Date: 04 Feb 2018 10:03:26

THE mega healthcare scheme announced by the Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley in the Budget, has the potential to change the healthcare scenario in the country for better. The scheme, under which health cover of Rs 5 lakh will be provided to 10 crore households, has therefore caught the attention of the people as it will take off the major worry of crores of people who find it difficult to arrange huge sums for the costly medical treatment with their limited income. Given the present condition of the healthcare system in the country, which is in shambles, effective implementation of the new scheme will be a big challenge before the Government. The success of the scheme depends on how efficiently the scheme will be implemented.

The Government seems to have taken appropriate lessons from the difficulties faced by it in implementing a similar healthcare scheme, Rashtriya Swastha Bima Yojana, announced a couple of years ago. The main criticism against the earlier scheme was that the process of registration for the scheme was complex. Because of this, a large section of population failed to avail benefits of the scheme. The Government now proposes to make the new scheme simpler. Though the scheme will be Aadhaar-linked, those not having Aadhaar card will also be eligible for the scheme, which is a welcome decision, going by the divided opinion about making Aadhaar card mandatory.

For effective implementation of the mega healthcare scheme, the Government will have to create a robust delivery system across the country. Because, the new scheme will subsume health insurance schemes launched by various States. The beneficiary will be now able to take the benefit of the scheme all over the country . For this a good network of hospitals is necessary. Another big challenge before the Government will be determining the cost of treatment across the country. The experience of the health insurance schemes funded by the State Governments and that of individual policy holders is that some private hospitals deliberately inflate medical bills by asking patients to undergo unnecessary tests if the patient has an insurance cover. How will this be addressed?

Before the new healthcare scheme is rolled out, the Government will have to build a strong infrastructure in rural areas. More hospitals will have to be built, trained staff will have to be appointed, hi-tech equipment required for treatment will have to be procured and installed and a steady supply of drugs to hospitals will have to be ensured. This will be an enormous task. Presently, though there are Government-run hospitals in several cities, they are in a pathetic condition. Government-run Gorakhpur hospital is a case in point, where over 70 children had lost their lives in within a couple of days due to shortage of oxygen cylinders.
Mr. Jaitley was absolutely right in his observation that thousands of poor people are forced to sell their assets for getting medical treatment in hospitals. The Government thus deserves kudos for coming to the aid of all such people by announcing a national healthcare scheme. The intentions of the Government are noble. It must now work hard for the effective implementation of the scheme.