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Delhi government’s ambitious health plan yet to start

The Delhi government’s universal coverage scheme, on the other hand, to offer healthcare to all residents, irrespective of their income, was announced in March this year and is still stuck in the planning stage.

delhi Updated: Dec 07, 2018 14:34 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
ayushman bharat scheme,delhi govt,delhi govt's health scheme
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said the Delhi government’s universal coverage (health) scheme is stuck because of bureaucratic delays. (HT File Photo )

Delhi is among five states which have not rolled out the Union government’s Ayushman Bharat scheme, touted as the world’s largest health insurance scheme.

The Delhi government’s universal coverage scheme, on the other hand, to offer healthcare to all residents, irrespective of their income, was announced in March this year and is still stuck in the planning stage.

Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had announced the scheme on March 22 and allocated Rs 100 crore in the 2018-19 budget. The government would pay the premium for the poor and fix a subsidised premium for those who can pay.

An expert committee was also set up to design the scheme but the committee stopped meeting in June without submitting its recommendations.

“A committee was constituted at the beginning of the financial year to design a universal health coverage scheme. Nine meetings were held and the committee had agreed upon some recommendations, but these were never formally submitted. The plan was to use the framework of the Central scheme as it had ready-references for tender documents and health packages, but nothing happened,” said a senior official from Delhi government.

The committee members felt that they could adopt the template of the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PM-JAY), which offers insurance cover of up to Rs 5 lakh for 10 crore poor families. Announced during the Union budget on February 1, 2018, the PMJAY scheme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 23. All states except five -- Delhi, Kerala, Odisha, Punjab and Telangana -- have already rolled out the scheme.

The PMJAY has at least 14,000 empanelled public and private hospitals which have offer cashless treatment to 4.61 lakh people since its launch.

Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said the scheme is stuck because of bureaucratic delays. “What can we do if the officials are not working? And, they are not likely to do so till the Supreme Court judgment comes. They just want to bring in the Central scheme instead,” said Jain.

The Centre said it has sought a meeting with health minister Jain to address the state’s concerns regarding PMJAY, but the minister had not given a date yet. “We have been in talks with the health minister’s office. Earlier this month, we also requested to meet the CM. This scheme is very beneficial for the poor,” said Dinesh Arora, deputy CEO, Ayushman Bharat.

However, the Delhi government has raised concerns regarding the nomenclature of the state scheme. “Initially, we were told that ‘Ayushman Bharat’ could be used either as prefix or suffix, now they (the Centre) want it as a prefix only. Why should we be promoting Modiji? The (Centre’s) scheme will cover only a very small percentage of Delhiites. What is the point of enrolling government hospitals? Treatment is completely free for all in Delhi government hospitals, as it should be in any government hospital,” said Jain.

Delhi government hospitals offer free treatment to everyone, including tests and medicines. The government has also empanelled 48 private hospitals for 52 surgeries when the waiting period is long in government hospitals. It has also tied up with 23 diagnostic centres to offer 13 specialised tests free.

If implemented, Ayushman Bharat would allow Delhi residents to get free treatment across at least 14,000 empanelled public and private hospitals across India where AB-PMJAY is in force.

Government hospitals, including those run by Delhi government, will also be paid for treating patients from other states, who account for 30-40% of the patients treated in Delhi hospitals. At the Delhi government-run Guru Teg Bahadur hospital, 70% patients are from outside Delhi. By shifting the patient load to private hospitals, it will also free up speciality hospitals like Delhi State Cancer Institute, which being the standalone cancer treatment centre,is always over-crowded.

“In an ideal situation, the states should not charge citizens for health services. Delhi has the right to take the stand that they are providing free treatment, so why get an insurance. But, not all city residents visit Delhi government hospitals, they might go to AIIMS or Safdarjung and pay for certain services. The scheme would also allow portability — Delhi residents can get treatment outside the state and Delhi hospitals will receive funds for treating patients from other states,” said Dr K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India.

First Published: Dec 07, 2018 14:34 IST