Ayushman Bharat, the flagship scheme of the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, seems to be a key focus in the government’s second term as well.

While the new government proposes to introduce several upgrades for Ayushman Bharat or the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), it also plans to increase the health budget to support the scheme.

“We are committed to leveraging all resources efficiently to ensure that the out-of-pocket expenditure on health is reduced and all citizens can avail of necessary medical services. Health of the people of this country is the top priority of the Modi government," said Harsh Vardhan, Union minister of health and family welfare, who took charge on Monday.

“We will consider expanding eligibility criteria to include those poor and vulnerable people who have been left out from the current list of AB-PMJAY. Concerted efforts will be made for empanelling more private hospitals. Also, the government will resolve the bottlenecks in the implementation of Ayushman Bharat and make it more handy and easily accessible for the common man," he said.

Harsh Vardhan also talked about higher budgetary allocation for health, elimination of tuberculosis from India by 2025, taking concerted and time-bound actions to eliminate leprosy and Kala Azar, a separate policy for medical devices focusing on their accessibility and affordability, and major plan outlays for AB-PMJAY.

“We will make Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY and health and wellness centres (HWCs) into a people’s movement. More than 18,000 HWCs have become functional. We also plan to make around 1.5 lakh additional HWCs functional. The government will take up the programme to next level with expanded package of services, availability of drugs and point of care diagnostics and telemedicine facility. The focus will be on consolidating both the streams of Ayushman Bharat," he added.

AB-PMJAY, also dubbed Modicare, which is 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—more than 100 million poor and vulnerable families.

The scheme has been praised for promoting affordable health. “For the first time, there is discernible effort for moving from selective primary healthcare such as maternal and child health and family planning to broader package of comprehensive primary healthcare. Emphasis on health promotion and specific protection, screening, early diagnosis and prompt treatment as well as public health are clearly evident," said Dinesh Agarwal, senior technical advisor, IPE Global Ltd.

“Success of national health protection scheme —popularly known as Modicare—would also depend on how effectively gate-keeping function is realized at lower level formations in health care delivery system," he said.

The government is also planning to create a common working group comprising the health ministry and the department of science and technology for research and innovation in the health sector by converging the resources and potential of both the ministries.

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