New Delhi: The recently announced National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) could prove to be a big bonanza for mid-size hospitals when implemented. Under the ambitious scheme, dubbed Modicare, the government has a provision to include hospitals with a staff strength of over 20 fitting into the NHPS’s selection criteria. With this, mid-sized hospitals will get patients and likely financial investment s.

There are approximately one lakh mid-size hospitals in India, according to Indian Medical Association (IMA).

“Several hospitals in India are under-utilized. Under the NHPS, we will include hospitals having staff strength of more than 20 on the basis of a structured criteria including optimum facilities, assurance of patient services, accountability and infrastructure," said Vinod K. Paul, member (health and nutrition), Niti Aayog, country’s apex policy think tank, which has charted out the scheme.

“The scheme will be delivered by a network of public and private hospitals. Several private medical colleges are really good and have the capacity to deliver effectively but are not getting enough patients. Now, they will also get patients and patients will also benefit from their expertise," he said.

The cashless Aadhaar enabled scheme with a 60:40 centre and state share will tentatively be rolled out by October.

After the scheme is rolled out, public health experts claim that there will there be an equal distribution of patients in private and government hospitals, with free treatment for poor readily available in private hospitals.

“A patient selects a hospital depending on the quality of services, capacity, performance and availability of staff. If patients come to these indentified hospitals, the scheme will certainly distribute the burden of patients equally in public and private hospitals and improve the healthcare scenario in the country," said Arup Mitra, professor, Health Policy Research Unit (HPRU) at the Institute of Economic Growth.

Currently, several public healthcare facilities can be identified as ‘underutilized’. However full utilization of these facilities also seems to be challenging, as during the outbreak of seasonal diseases such as dengue and malaria, even private hospitals face shortage of beds. “Many public hospitals and dispensaries are underutilized but the reason is that there are no personnel to run them properly. In government hospitals, there is no need for any health insurance as all the services and medicines are anyway free. A few charges may be lowered with the financial protection scheme," said Rajeev Sood, member Medical Council of India (MCI) and head of the urology department at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.

The NHPS scheme is being touted as the world’s largest government funded healthcare insurance, covering half a billion people.

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