The world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), or Ayushman Bharat, was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ranchi on Sunday. Over 10 crore families — both urban and rural poor — will be provided an annual health cover of ₹5 lakh each under the PMJAY.

“Some call it Modicare, some call it a scheme for the poor. It is definitely a scheme to serve the poor,” Modi said.

He said the scheme would benefit over 50 crore people: the poor, deprived rural families, and identified occupational categories of urban workers’ families. This would imply 8.03 crore households in the countryside, and 2.33 crore families in the urban areas, as per data from the latest Socio-Economic Caste Census.

However, the Centre will fund only 60 per cent of PMJAY and States will have to shoulder the remainder of the expense.

Modi said the PMJAY provided comprehensive health insurance, covering 1,300 illnesses, including serious ones such as cancer and diseases of the heart. Private hospitals would also be part of the scheme. Health cover for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation would be made available through a network of empanelled health-care providers.

The Prime Minister claimed the insured amount of ₹5 lakh would cover all investigations, medicine, pre-hospitalisation expenses, etc. It would also cover pre-existing illnesses. People can learn more about the scheme by dialling 14555, or through their Common Service Centre. There will be no cap on the family size and age under PMJAY. Modi said the first part of Ayushman Bharat — health and wellness centres — was launched on BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary (April 14) and the second, the health assurance scheme, is being launched two days before the birthday of Jan Sangh ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay (September 25).

The Prime Minister said those people who were permanent residents of States that had subscribed to PMJAY could enjoy its benefits in any other State that had also signed up for the scheme.

He also spoke of the 10 health and wellness centres inaugurated on Sunday. The number of such centres has reached 2,300, and the aim is to increase this to 1.5 lakh in four years.

India Inc upbeat

Responding to the launch of Ayushman Bharat, Prathap Reddy, Founder and Chairman, Apollo Hospitals, said: “ I feel as happy as I did when we launched the first universal insurance scheme in my village in the year 1999.” However, he voiced concerns over “potential fraud” and the “pricing and reimbursements” to the private sector, which, he said, “must remain paramount”.

Anuj Gulati, Managing Director & CEO, Religare Health Insurance, said: “Ayushman Bharat will bring in the much-needed revolutionary change to healthcare in India.”

Shreeraj Deshpande, Head, Health Insurance, Future Generali India Insurance, said the success of the ambitious Ayushman Bharat scheme would depend on its effective implementation. “This scheme would definitely increase awareness among the population and help set in some standards of care especially in rural areas,” he said.

Ashish Mehrotra, MD & CEO, Max Bupa Health Insurance said: “We truly believe that the scheme will have a positive impact on the current healthcare ecosystem, in lieu of the rising medical inflation, with people spending about 60-65% on out-of-pocket expenses.”