The budget (for the scheme) for this year is 2,000 crore. Even if it is spent, it’s less than 20 rupees per person,” the economist said.
After presenting the Budget 2018, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gave a name to government’s ambitious healthcare scheme Ayushmann Bharat: Modicare. He said that nobody knew whether Obamacare was successful but Modicare will become successful in every possible way. Dubbed as “world’s largest government-funded health care programme” aims to provide health insurance coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family per annum to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.
While the programme is yet to be launched, noted development economist Jean Dreze said that it is a ‘hoax’, not as big as it is being claimed to be. “The budget (for the scheme) for this year is 2,000 crore. Even if it is spent, it’s less than 20 rupees per person,” he said at the launch of his book, co-authored with Amartya Sen, ‘Bharat Aur Uske Virodhabhas’, the Hindi edition of his book ‘An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradiction’.
It is projected as health insurance for 50 crore people, but it is virtually nothing, Jean Dreze said. The Belgian-born Indian economist helped the UPA government in the first draft of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). Jean Dreze became an Indian citizen in 2002 and is an honorary Professor at the Delhi School of Economics.
The government is hoping to have the final blueprint of the plan by August 15, which will mark India’s 72nd Independence Day anniversary. Although beneficiaries have been identified and the IT infrastructure has been put in place, the involvement of hospitals — public and private — and insurance companies was still to be finalised, Bloomberg reported quoting Indu Bhushan, chief executive officer of the project.
Meanwhile, BJP-ruled states Rajasthan and Maharashtra are showing reluctance in opting for the health care plan as they are not sure about how to implement it and they already have state healthcare plans. The announcement of the Modicare plan was welcomed but with a grain of salt.
“The experience with previous insurance schemes tells us that most such measures tend to end as damp squibs in the absence of effective implementation and monitoring,” Sunita Narain, CSE DG had said in February. The concept of universal healthcare coverage is not too ambitious. A World Bank report said that many countries including Nepal, Afghanistan and Thailand are on the right track to achieve it.
However, for a scheme like Modicare to succeed, it is important that the “basic health care infrastructure for delivery of primary health services is strong”, a healthcare study said.
Although India’s health budget has not changed much since 2009 and remained merely between 0.98% and 1.18% of the GDP, one of the lowest in the world, its ranking on Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) index has improved. India moved up from 153 in 1990 to 145 in 2016 in raking on the HAQ index. “India’s improvements on the HAQ Index hastened from 2000 to 2016,” a study published by medical journal The Lancet said, adding that sub-national inequalities are still a concern.