Posted on January 3, 2019 by PINC Insurance

Independence Day is always a day of celebration among the masses in India. It’s a day to celebrate life being freed from the former colonial rule. While things have got better over the last 72 years, medical care has become more expensive as well; limiting India’s financial freedom considerably. And so it was fitting that on the eve of Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the ambitious Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM) – the world’s largest government sponsored healthcare insurance scheme that aims to provide 10 crore of India’s poorest families with health insurance of Rs.5 lakh each per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.

80% of the population still does not have any significant health insurance coverage. Such a massive healthcare program will overshadow all social welfare programs ever conceived. This will also subsume the existing Rashtriya Swathya Yojana (RSBY), launched in 2008 by the UPA government.

Captain of the Ship

An ex-IAS officer and a career bureaucrat-turned development banker, Indu Bhushan was lured by Modi to be the chief executive of Ayushman Bharat. Indu Bhushan’s portfolio beems with his experience in handling healthcare programmes from Thailand, Mongolia and Rajasthan. With a Master’s degree in health sciences and a PhD in Economics from John Hopkins University, it is safe to say his instincts are backed by academics.

Struggle of States

Till date, Bhusan has managed to bring on board 28 of the total 36 states and UTs, including some ruled by opposition parties. Even so, bigger challenges lie ahead. Some states are still skeptical about the scheme and think it will be a “waste” of state resources. Some states are yet to complete the tendering process for insurance companies and hospital empanelment. While Bhushan earlier announced 15th August as a personal deadline for his team to complete the preparations, Uttar Pradesh & Bihar had other plans. Both the states are planning on a September launch.

Seven states, including Tamil Nadu and Kerala are yet to agree to implement AB-NHPM and Odisha is its most conservative critic. Odisha provides a health cover which is much larger and belittles the cover provided by the Centre. In June, Odisha reportedly decided not to implement the scheme because signing up would “deprive” nine lakh families of free health services.

While hurdles still persist, Bhusan’s vision is a future where all government healthcare schemes are brought under one umbrella.