Home > politics > policy > Modicare faces challenges in reaching out to urban poor

New Delhi: The government is expecting a challenge in rolling out the National Health Protection Mission (NHPM) to the urban poor after completing the first round of data cleansing earlier this month.

Billed as the world’s largest health assurance scheme, NHPM, dubbed Modicare, aims to provide free health insurance of Rs5 lakh per family to nearly 40% of the population—more than 100 million poor and vulnerable families based on Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC).

The health ministry is currently detecting, correcting and deleting inaccurate records from its database for targeted beneficiaries. While contacting rural beneficiaries to inform them about their entitlement for NHPS has been strategically planned, the major task for the government now is finding the actual whereabouts of urban beneficiaries. “The NHPM is an entitlement-based scheme and the biggest challenge is to reach out to poor and tell them that they are entitled for this scheme," said Dinesh Arora, director, Ayushman Bharat-NHPM.

In rural areas, the government has drafted in the rural development ministry and gram panchayats. The gram panchayats will hold Ayushman Diwas on 30 April and read out the list of beneficiaries. In urban areas, however, the government has involved civic authorities. The uneven geographic distribution of poor families may make it difficult for government to find out the real targeted beneficiaries of Modicare.

“The NHPM has included people on the criteria of profession. The urban space is geographically diffused and the poor population in urban areas is fluid. The population keeps on coming in, going out and migrating within as well as outside the urban space," said Vinod Kumar Paul, member (health and nutrition), NITI Aayog. Paul is involved in charting out the plans for Modicare.

“There may come some inherent difficulties in communicating with this chunk of urban population. As this is a national scheme and has to be implemented in partnership with the states, they will have to find out ways to reach out to the lowest quintile of their areas," he said.

The different categories in rural area include families having only one room with kutcha walls and kutcha roof; families having no adult member between age 16 to 59; female headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59; disabled member and no able bodied adult member in the family; SC/ST households; and landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour.

Also, automatically included are families in rural areas having any one of the following attributes—households without shelter; destitute; living on alms; manual scavenger families; primitive tribal groups; and legally released bonded labour. For urban areas, 11 defined occupational categories, including ragpickers, beggars, domestic workers, cobblers, hawkers, construction workers, plumbers, painters and security guards, are entitled under the scheme.

“In rural areas, most of the panchayats have updated data but in urban areas, family numbers keep on changing as urban India has mobile and migratory population. We are verifying the data, which is quite challenging in urban areas as there are unauthorized colonies, jhuggi jhopdi clusters that have potential beneficiaries of NHPM," said Alok Saxena, joint secretary, Union health ministry.

“We are trying to loop in nodal agencies and NGOs so that we can reach targeted beneficiaries. We will send letters to these people. They can also collect their entitlement letters from the post offices," he said.

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