Healthcare in India is in a wretched situation, and it has been estimated that almost 3-4% of Indians are pushed into deep impoverishment due to unaffordable medical expenses. Primary healthcare infrastructure is dilapidated, there is a shortage of doctors in rural as well as urban areas, communicable diseases quickly spread into epidemic, and the there is an alleged overtake of healthcare delivery by an exploitative private sector. The government has done little to revitalize the health industry except for few flailing insurance schemes and pretentious regulations. The fact is that the Central government spends only around a dismal 1% of GDP on healthcare in India. Indians still spend more than 62% of their health expenses from their savings or through selling assets.
The present NDA government has apparently conceded to the abysmal record of healthcare sector and how this drag continues to hinder India’s social and economic development. Hence, it has come up with a healthcare insurance plan with a scale and magnitude never heard before. It has been dubbed by the Finance Minister as the biggest healthcare reform plan of the world, quite justified given the size of India’s population. The National Health Protection Scheme as announced would be to the benefit of 10 crore poor and vulnerable families with an outreach to more than 50 crore Indians. The idea is to provide a coverage upto Rs. 5 lakh per family for secondary and tertiary hospitalization. It is a part of the extended Ayushman Bharat programme to make path breaking interventions in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.
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As envisioned by the National Health Policy 2017, health and wellness centers have been described as the fundamental foundation of India’s health system. Around 1.5 lakh health centers will be created under the new flagship scheme, that shall provide comprehensive healthcare to non-communicable diseases, and child and maternal services. Presently, Rs. 1200 crore has been allocated to the scheme, and also envisages the contribution of the private sector through CSR as well as philanthropic institutions.
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Media establishments have already named it as ‘Modicare’, some applauding the bold move while others calling it another dance to the tune of upcoming polls. The government think-tank NITI Aayog is supposedly already working on the plan. The implementation would start as early as possible, however, only after a pilot programme. Another government think-tank National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) has estimated that the mega health plan would cost about Rs. 1 trillion annually. Also, it would curtail the states’ autonomy to roll out its own health plan. Speculations are rife regarding how the plan would unfurl given the fact that 40% of India’s population is to be covered by it. Moreover, such plans world over has shown how difficult it is to quantify and implement such universal healthcare plans. Nevertheless, the government seems determined to go ahead with it and the realization of this scheme would start unfolding soon.