Ayushman Bharat roll-out may miss its date with I-Day

Maitri Porecha & Twesh Mishra New Delhi | Updated on August 09, 2018

Several States yet to come on board the health scheme

India’s most ambitious healthcare scheme was earlier slated to be launched on August 15, Independence Day, but that plan has now been put on the back-burner.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi will talk about the scheme though in his I-Day speech and give a timeline for launching it,” said Indu Bhushan, the CEO of Ayushman Bharat.

“We are keen on launching it on the same day across the country. We are waiting for a few States to formally come on board,” Bhushan said.

Except, Odisha all States are willing to join the health scheme. Punjab, Karnataka, Delhi, Kerala, and Maharashtra are in the process of coming on board.

The role of insurance companies has drastically gone down in the scheme, Bhushan said, adding that 22 States had opted to run the scheme on a “trust mode”. Only Apollo Munich has been selected by Nagaland to provide services, while West Bengal is in talk with Bajaj Allianz to roll out the scheme.

The Union Health Ministry has had at least three meetings with 25 insurance providers since the announcement of the scheme to coax them to come on board, but they have mostly not found the proposition profitable.

“If it is profitable, implementation will suffer; if it is not, then why would we want to join?” said a COO of a leading private insurance company, who did not wish to be quoted.

The Centre has allocated an annual budget of ₹10,000 crore for the scheme, but it has not released its share of the funds yet. “Because it will be launched mid-year, we require only 50 per cent of the funds as of now. The Centre has released its 60 per cent share. The States are spending their 40 per cent share as of now,” Bhushan said.

Preeti Sudan, Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, recommended at a recent event of central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) that the Ayushman Bharat programme could be partially funded by corporate social responsibility (CSR).

However, Bhushan said there was no paucity of funds, and the government had more money than they could use. The Centre has also not formally approached CPSEs to foot the bill for Ayushman Bharat.

“Till now, our CSR activities have been centred on offering services and equipment. For example, we provide ambulances or medical equipment for hospitals under CSR. Under Ayushman Bharat, the PSUs may be expected to make a cash disbursement or to contribute to a corpus. This has not been the case till now and the modalities for it haven’t been worked out either,” said a PSU oil company executive.

Up to 7,000 hospitals have applied for empanelment under the scheme. “There will be inspections to verify these hospitals. The States have to approve their empanelment. This process will take time. Even as big corporate hospitals have not come on board, there are smaller hospitals committed to the cause, and the number of applications is swelling by the day,” said Bhushan.

The scheme intends to provide annual health cover of ₹5 lakh for 10 crore poor families.

The challenge of next to non-existent health infrastructure though remains in Bihar and North-East, Bhushan pointed out. “But we hope the scheme will generate demand-side financing in healthcare,” he said.

Published on August 09, 2018

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