Neetu Chandra Sharma

New Delhi: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday proposed a federal institution similar to the GST (goods and services tax) Council to implement healthcare schemes that are often stymied because of resistance from states for political reasons.

As healthcare schemes are implemented through states in coordination of the centre, Jaitley mooted a federal body for the healthcare sector that would improve coordination with states.

“Healthcare in India needs a federal institution along the lines of the GST. State and central health schemes should be merged to provide adequate resources and revenue for welfare of patients," said Jaitley. He was addressing the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) health summit.

“The federal institution experiment of the GST having succeeded ....there are two other sectors which eminently require federal institutions of this kind," Jaitley said, referring to healthcare and agriculture.

“States and centre both spend on healthcare and have their respective schemes. The centre is also establishing institutes of eminence across the country. The centre has implemented Ayushman Bharat, and states also have similar schemes. Several states have adopted the Ayushman Bharat scheme in parallel to their already existing schemes," he said.

Healthcare is an area that requires a federal institution, Jaitley said, adding that the focus has to be on welfare of the people. States would be responsible for implementation with coordination from the centre, he said.

He added that there are ample funds for healthcare schemes and resources from the centre and states may be combined to benefit people requiring healthcare.

“Ultimately this is not a turf issue if my scheme is better than your scheme. It is essentially a welfare issue, whether the patients in my state are better than the patients in other states," Jaitley said, adding that every state would stand to benefit if such a federal institution was in place.

In the run-up to the implementation the goods and services tax on 1 July 2017, the centre and states had agreed to set up a GST Council, chaired by Union finance minister and comprising finance ministers of all states.

When Ayushman Bharat, touted as one of the world’s largest public health insurance programmes, was being conceptualized, there were several discussions on whether it will succeed, but the scheme has proved to be really successful, Jaitley said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 23 September launched the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana. The ambitious scheme, also known as Modicare, aims to offer an annual health cover of 5 lakh per family, targeting more than 100 million families belonging to the poor and vulnerable sections of the population, based on Socio-Economic Caste Census database.

As many as 300,000 poor people have benefited from Ayushman Bharat health scheme in the last one-and-a-half months, according to the Union health ministry.

“With Ayushman Bharat, hope is being provided to the underserved sections of our population. The challenge ahead is successful implementation. We are moving from an un-pensioned, un-insured economy to one where citizen welfare is a priority," Jaitley said.

At least five opposition-ruled states in the country have not implemented Ayushman Bharat, citing various reasons. They are Telangana, Odisha, Delhi, Kerala and Punjab.

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