New Delhi: A difference of opinion between two ministries has put paid to a six-month-old proposal to extend a government health insurance scheme for the poor to those working under the government’s flagship job guarantee programme.
The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) offers cashless hospitalization benefit up to Rs30,000 for a poor family of five. Nearly 11 million families have been issued smart cards since the scheme was introduced through the labour ministry in 2007.
While the insurance scheme is only meant for families living under the poverty line, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), run by the ministry of rural development, covers all rural households.
NREGA guarantees 100 days of work a year to one member each of all rural households. Since its launch in February 2006, at least 41.5 million households have benefited from the scheme.
To receive insurance cover, NREGA beneficiaries should have been employed for at least 15 days or more in the last fiscal.
The ministry of rural development wants the insurance scheme to cover even those NREGA beneficiaries who are above the poverty line. But as the scheme is meant only for households below the poverty line, no progress has been made so far.
“NREGA includes both APL (above poverty line) and BPL (below poverty line) households, while RSBY targets only BPL families. Hence, the ministry of labour and employment should make changes to include APL households under NREGA,” a rural development official said on condition of anonymity. “But till now, no step has been taken in that direction. We have given them whatever data they wanted from us.”
The labour ministry, however, said the government needs to take a financial decision in this regard.
“The government has to simply decide whether non-BPL households under NREGA should also be covered by RSBY,” said Anil Swarup, director general, labour welfare, labour ministry. “It is merely a financial decision since, with the inclusion of non-BPL families, the financial liability would go up significantly given that around 50-60% of NREGA beneficiaries fall in the APL category.”
Swarup added this would amount to an additional cost of Rs150-200 crore. “The rural development ministry took some time to give us indicative data for the numbers involved, but now we have all the data. Some decision will be taken in due course,” he said.