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Ramesh Shankar
Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget proposals presented in Parliament on February 1 has announced some bold initiatives for healthcare in the country. Under the Ayushman Bharat Programme, the Finance Minister has announced two major healthcare programmes. First is the National Health Protection Scheme which is being projected as the world’s largest healthcare programme. It will be a government-funded healthcare programme aimed at providing health insurance cover of up to Rs. 5 lakh per family per year to 10 crore poor families with approximately 50 crore beneficiaries across the country. The scheme accounts for roughly 40 per cent of the country's population. This scheme addresses secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation and covers both prevention and health promotion.  Another initiative is the creation of health and wellness centres across the country, which will bring healthcare closer to home. These centres, 1.5 lakh in number, will provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services to the poor people. A sum of Rs. 1200 crore has been allocated for this programme. Besides, a total of 24 new government medical colleges have also been announced by the Finance Minister in his Budget proposals, with a view to fulfill the government's vision of "Swasth Bharat, Samriddha Bharat". Keeping the new healthcare schemes in mind, this year's total budgetary allocation to the Union Health Ministry is Rs. 52,800 crore, an 11.5 per cent increase over the Rs. 47,353 crore allocated last year. But the National Health Mission - the flagship scheme - has actually seen a decrease in allocation. While Rs. 30,801.56 crore was spent on NHM in 2017-18, this year's allocation is Rs. 30,129.61 crore. The government has committed Rs. 2,000 crore to the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna through which money for the National Health Protection Scheme will be initially routed. In addition, an allocation of Rs. 9,752.82 crore has been made to the National Rural Health Mission. The flexible pool for non-communicable diseases, injury and trauma has been granted Rs. 1,004.67 crore.

Of course, the increased focus on healthcare by the government augurs well for the citizens of the country, especially the poor people who cannot afford the ever-increasing healthcare costs. But, the real challenge will be the health infrastructure to build the essential point of care network to deliver these benefits to the patients. Experts have already expressed apprehensions about the poor allocation of funds for this scheme as they say that Rs. 2,000 crore is far from adequate to cover the health premium for 10 crore families. Though the government has been taking considerable efforts towards building the health infrastructure, the health delivery system continues to face severe challenges due to lack of appropriate and enough human resources deployed on the ground. The newly announced schemes will truly be a game-changer towards universal health coverage, but, as with previous schemes, the key remains successful implementation of these schemes. Only time will tell whether this 'Modicare' will cure the ills afflicting the healthcare infrastructure in the country.


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pradeep awasthi Feb 15, 2018 6:45 AM
In last three years of modi governance,there is consistent improvement in health care facilities and new infrastructure for cattering better patients care.This is being further more strengthen by creating generic medicine outlets for providing greater economy benefits and equally capping of prices of stents,Knee joint replacement and recently needles and syringes.This has resulted better patients care and improving accessibility of economical facilities.

The most recent health budget presented by our Finance minister Mr Arun jaitely,has brought great rationale to address the unmatch needs of patients for improving health status.There is good increase in health budget over the last year,with respect to introduction of Health insurance for poor family and creation of 1,5 lakh health well ness centre across the country.Though it seems to provide big benefits for poor patients but again its eexecution and implementation will be a wait and watch game for all of us.
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