Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (PTI file)
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (PTI file)

Centre vs Delhi: Argument over Ayushman Bharat continues

  • Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had claimed that the Delhi government's health scheme was 10 times better than AB-PMJAY
  • Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said in reality, citizens still had to spend a lot from their pocket to get 'free treatment'

New Delhi: The Centre and the Delhi government continue to be at loggerheads over the implementation of the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s flagship health scheme.

While newly appointed Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan earlier this week urged four states, including Delhi, to implement the scheme, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had said the national capital will not adopt the scheme. Kejriwal had claimed that the Delhi government's health scheme was 10 times better than AB-PMJAY.

With the rift out in the social media, the tussle between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led Delhi government and the NDA government at the Centre is once again in the forefront. The letters exchanged between the ministers show major discontentment over each other’s views.

“The response shows that the chief minister is least interested in the welfare of the people of Delhi. The claim that the Delhi government is implementing free health care and, therefore, need not implement Ayushman Bharat is baseless," Harsh Vardhan said in his scathing reply to Kejriwal.

“All your fancy schemes, including the much-touted Universal Coverage Health Scheme, announced more than a year ago, are still lying on the drawing boards awaiting implementation even after four and a half years. Your Mohalla Clinics are an utter flop and the drastic neglect of patient care in Delhi government hospitals is there for all to see," he said.

Refuting the statements of the Delhi chief minister, Harsh Vardhan said while states claimed to provide free health care through government hospitals, in reality, citizens still had to spend a lot from their pocket to get the so-called “free treatment".

Arvind Kejriwal argued in his letter to the union health minister that AB-PMAJY was available to only those with incomes less than 10,000 per month, when the minimum wage of a daily labourer in Delhi was higher than that. He also said that the existing scheme extended health benefits to all 2 crore citizens of the national capital.

In response Harsh Vardhan argued, “PMJAY targets almost 30 lakh (15% of total population) persons in Delhi who are most poor and vulnerable. You have also mentioned that the income criterion of 10,000 per month is less than the minimum wages in Delhi but I want to correct you that this criterion of 10,000 per month was used on data collected in 2011 and therefore, such families which were earning less than Rs. 10,000 per month in 2011 are eligible under the scheme,".

Refuting Kejriwal's claim on unlimited cover being provided under the “free health scheme of the Delhi government," Harsh Vardhan said unlimited cover had no meaning if people still had to pay to get the treatment.

“Since you are anyway providing OPD cover through your proposed scheme, linking with PMJAY for in-patient cover will be a boon for the poor and vulnerable population of Delhi as they will not only get ready access to private hospitals, but will also be able to get benefits across the country. You can even expand PM-JAY to cover more beneficiaries as has been done by many other States."

AB-PMJAY, also dubbed Modicare, is billed as the world’s largest healthcare scheme. It aims to provide free health insurance of 5 lakh per family to nearly 40% of the population — more than 100 million poor and vulnerable families. Delhi, Odisha, Telangana and West Bengal after major deliberations during the previous central government refused to adopt the scheme citing different reasons.

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