NEW DELHI: Beneficiaries of various welfare schemes for the poor may get to enjoy the benefits of Ayushman Bharat, and not just those identified under the last census, as the government aims to bring more people under its coverage.
The government, which had initially planned to identify beneficiaries using the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011, now feels population changes since then have rendered the data outdated, and using it for the flagship health scheme would cut out many beneficiaries.
The Union health ministry has asked the National Health Authority (NHA) to find ways to deepen the reach and utility of Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), also known as Modicare.
“Conducting a fresh survey all across the country would be difficult, but we are thinking of including more beneficiaries under various other schemes for poor people such as under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA 2013) and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. This will increase the eligibility for beneficiaries," said Indu Bhushan, chief executive officer, AB-PMJAY.
Ayushman Bharat, billed as the world’s largest healthcare scheme, aims to provide free health insurance of ₹5 lakh per family to nearly 40% of the population—which would cover more than 100 million poor and vulnerable families.
“We need to work to include those eligible families who have been left out in the survey to make the scheme more inclusive. It should be ensured that the scheme reaches every last eligible and needy person in the country," health minister Harsh Vardhan said in an official statement.
The minister, who reviewed the progress of the scheme on 6 June, said the government is looking at forming a task force for discussing probable challenges and finding solutions in a time-bound manner. “A stronger focus should be given on providing information to all eligible beneficiaries about their eligibility, the benefits and how to seek the benefits. In addition, efforts should be made to ensure quality of care in the empaneled hospitals," he said.
“We should try to empanel all quality hospitals for the scheme. Efforts should be made to converge the scheme with the existing central and state schemes," Vardhan said, adding fraud and corruption will not be tolerated in any form. Strong checks and balances should be put in place to deter and mitigate fraud and abuse, and a zero-tolerance policy adopted against any leakages.
The government plans to sign up more hospitals under Ayushman Bharat, especially in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, along with ensuring that a minimum two-third of top 200 hospitals are empanelled under Ayushman Bharat.
Out of 36 states and Union territories, 32 have signed memorandums of understanding with the NHA for implementing Ayushman Bharat and most of them have started implementing the scheme. Discussions are in progress with rest of the states—Delhi, Odisha, Telangana and Bengal—to bring them on board. The Union health ministry has written to the chief ministers of these four states to urge them to implement the scheme.