Interim Budget: Ayushman Bharat scheme expanded to frontline health workers | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Interim Budget: Ayushman Bharat scheme expanded to frontline health workers

Feb 01, 2024 04:36 PM IST

The allocation for the scheme has been marginally increased by about 4% from ₹7200 crore in the budget estimates of 2023-24 to ₹7500 crore for 2024-25

New Delhi: The health cover under the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna, Prime minister Narendra Modi government’s flagship public health insurance scheme, will be extended to all ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers and helpers, announced Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday in her interim budget speech for this year.

Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament at North Block in New Delhi on February 1, 2024. (Sanchit Khanna/ Hindustan Times)
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament at North Block in New Delhi on February 1, 2024. (Sanchit Khanna/ Hindustan Times)

The allocation for the scheme has been marginally increased by about 4% from 7200 crore in the budget estimates of 2023-24 to 7500 crore for 2024-25.

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The scheme provides an annual cashless cover of Rs5 lakh for hospitalisations.

After compiling the initial beneficiary database of approximately 550 million persons identified from poor and vulnerable category based on the Socio-Economic Caste Census, 2011, the centre expanded the database to include benefits under the scheme to the transgender community for general treatment and also gender reassignment surgeries, last year.

The inclusion into the list of AB-PMJAY beneficiaries had been the long-standing demand of frontline health care workers across the country.

“Thanking FM @NSitharaman Ji for announcing that healthcare cover under Ayushman Bharat scheme will be extended to all ASHA workers, all Aanganwadi workers, and helpers. #ViksitBharatBudget,” wrote Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya on X, soon after the budget announcement.

The finance minister also announced the government would encourage cervical cancer vaccination for girls in the age group of 9 to 14 years. The centre has long planned to introduce vaccination against cervical cancer in schools.

Experts said vaccinating young girls in the said age group is key to eliminating cervical cancer, one of the leading cancers in Indian women, and vaccine-preventable. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a well-established cause of cervical cancer, and HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for about 70% of all cervical cancer cases worldwide. It has been established that the vaccines have the potential to reduce the incidence of cervical and other anogenital cancers.

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“HPV vaccine aids in the primary prevention of cervical cancer which prevents the risk of HPV infection that causes cervical cancer. It’s most effective when given to adolescents between 9 to 14 years of age. Women between 27 to 45 years of age can get the HPV vaccine, however, getting it administered at these ages reduces the effectiveness of the vaccine and should be taken after proper consultation with a gynecologist. HPV Vaccines have a success rate of 88%. In India, we have an indigenous vaccine for cervical cancer, manufactured by Serum Institute Of India priced at 2200,” said Dr Rama Joshi, principal director, department of gynae-oncology, Fortis Hospital, Gurugram.

Adar Poonwalla, ceo, Serum Institute of India, wrote on X, “I applaud the Indian government’s announcement to vaccinate girls aged 9-14 against cervical cancer. Let’s pledge to prevent HPV and ensure easy access to vaccination…”

After doubling the undergraduate medical seats to bring it to a lakh seats by increasing the number of medical colleges to nearly 650 in the past 10 years, the centre plans to increase the number further.

“Several youth are ambitious to get qualified as doctors. They aim to serve our people through improved healthcare services. Our Government plans to set up more medical colleges by utilizing the existing hospital infrastructure under various departments. A committee for this purpose will be set-up to examine the issues and make relevant recommendations,” Sitharaman said.

In addition, various schemes for maternal and child care will be brought under one comprehensive programme for synergy in implementation. Upgradation of anganwadi centres under “Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0” will be expedited for improved nutrition delivery, early childhood care and development.

“The announcement of the Central Government to integrate various schemes for maternal and child care under one comprehensive programme will provide a more structured and cohesive approach to the host of programmess we have been driving so far. According to the National Family Health Survey- 5 (2019-21), India’s infant mortality rate still accounts for over 27 deaths per 1000 live births, while the maternal mortality rate stands at 52 deaths per 1 lakh live births. With this in consideration, such a comprehensive program is the need of the hour,” said Dr Sachin Shah, director- neonatal and paediatric intensive care services, Surya Mother & Child Super Speciality Hospital.

“While it is heartening to see the existing and the proposed developments planned for improving maternal and child healthcare, it is crucial to further expound on universal affordability and accessibility of quality healthcare to women and children to every nook and corner of the country.”

The newly designed U-WIN platform to manage immunisation and intensified efforts of Mission Indradhanush will also be rolled out expeditiously throughout the country, said the finance minister.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) lauded the announcements.

“ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and helpers are at the forefront of health and care delivery at the grassroots level. WHO applauds the extension of healthcare coverage to them under Ayushman Bharat. The initiatives announced today… will further strengthen systems and healthcare services across the country. WHO welcomes investments in these areas and will continue to support the Government of India in achieving health for all and meeting its disease elimination goals,” said Roderico H. Ofrin, WHO representative to India, in a statement.

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    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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