After providing cashless health insurance cover to below-poverty-line (BPL) indoor patients under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), Punjab will also implement the scheme in the OPD (out-patient department) as a pilot project in three districts.
The union ministry of labour and employment has given its nod to launch the scheme for OPD patients in Ferozepur, Bathinda and Rupnagar districts with effect from October 1.
The Punjab Health Systems Corporation (PHSC), the nodal agency implementing the RSBY in the state, had submitted a plan last year to the Centre for covering OPD patients as well under the scheme.
The other states implementing the RSBY for OPD patients in one district each are Gujarat and Odisha.
The RSBY is a centrally-sponsored scheme providing cashless healthcare benefits to BPL families through a health insurance cover of up to Rs 30,000 per family (a unit of five members) per year.
For OPD patients in three districts of Punjab, the insurance cover would be Rs 100 per month each (a maximum of five patients in a family), RSBY's state manager Saroj Nair told Hindustan Times.
A major reason why Punjab got the Centre's nod to extend the RSBY to OPD patients was the low number of indoor patients availing of the scheme.
In the 2011-12 financial year, only 23,000 indoor patients got benefit from the scheme against the total of 2.16 lakh RSBY card holders in the state.
There were only 8,000 RSBY beneficiaries in the 2010-11 financial year in Punjab.
"The OPD is the main thrust area of healthcare for the poor in our hospitals," Nair said.
She said it was observed that the BPL patients were mainly casual labourers who did not want to get hospitalised as it would lead to loss of daily wages.