Budget 2018: Experts back health protection scheme, but warn govt of misuse

Updated: Feb 02, 2018, 14:11 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

The national health scheme will provide an insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh annually to each of the 10 crore poor households

Hospital
Hospital

Budget 2018One of the two new initiatives announced under the Ayushman Bharat Programme - the National Health Protection Scheme - has turned out to be a game changer for Union Budget 2018. Among the world's largest healthcare schemes, it will provide an insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh annually to each of the 10 crore poor families. While some from the medical fraternity agree that the scheme would be a beneficial one, others say that if not implemented well, private hospitals might try to misuse it.

Universal healthcare
Mustafa Daginawalla, CFO, Saifee Hospital, said, "The Budget has given a lot of impetus to the health sector by emphasising on the needs of senior citizens and underprivileged. The scheme could be the first step towards universal healthcare in India."

Ameera Shah, MD of Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, said, "The Budget has been made keeping in mind the general public and the poor. For the first time, the government has focused on the needs of a health protection system. Free medicines and diagnostic facilities at 1.5 lakh wellness centres will benefit patients greatly."

Echoing him, Dr Piyush Gupta, managing director of GNH-India, said the scheme would make healthcare more accessible for the poor. "The initiative is good, provided it's implemented and executed properly. But the question is from where will the poor arrange for R5 lakh," said Dr Anil Sharma, cardiologist, Bombay Hospital. But even as medical experts appreciated the addition of the scheme in the Budget, some said the chances of its misuse couldn't be ruled out.

Dr Rahul Ghule, chief executive officer, Magic Heart, said, "Private hospitals can take undue advantage of the scheme by admitting the poor for the smallest of the ailments. The scheme will be useful, but the government needs to introduce strict provisions so that it isn't misused." Expressing a similar concern, Dr Jayesh Lele, member of Indian Medical Association, said, "It's a good initiative, but the government needs to focus more on improving health infrastructure, so that the poor can avail better treatment."

What about mental health?
Psychiatrists highlighted the need to focus on mental healthcare as well. "The number of patients suffering from mental illnesses in the country is increasing by the day. The government should have paid special attention to this and launched some initiative for the same," said Dr Sagar Mundhra, psychiatrist, Bhabha Hospital, and president of IMA, Youth Wing, Maharashtra.

Benefit for senior citizens
With Section 80D limit raised, senior citizens will now be able to claim the benefit of a deduction of Rs 50,000, instead of the earlier Rs 30,000, from any health insurance premium. "This is welcome news. But the decision to discontinue the medical benefit of Rs 15,000 per annum for salaried employees is unfortunate," said Daginawalla.

Raise your glasses to good health!
>> Medical insurance of Rs 5 lakh per family every year under National Health Protection Scheme, which will benefit 10 crore poor households.
>> A total of 1.5 lakh health centres to be set up at a cost of Rs 1,200 crore.
>> A provision of Rs 600 crore has been made for TB patients - Rs 500/month.
>> Facilities at district hospitals will be upgraded and 24 new medical colleges and hospitals will be set up.
>> Poor patients will receive dialysis treatment for free.
>> Universal health coverage to be expanded depending on its performance.

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