Government approves Ayushman Bharat – world’s largest government-funded healthcare scheme

The Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM), dubbed as Modicare, is touted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as the world’s largest healthcare programme. It is estimated to cost about Rs12,000 crore annually.

To be rolled out in collaboration with the state governments, “Modicare” is expected to reduce Out Of Pocket (OOP) expenditure—the in-patient hospitalization expenditure in India has increased nearly 300% during last 10 years according to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) 2015. Currently, OOP expenditure in India is over 60%, causing impoverishment to nearly 6 million families coping with catastrophic health expenditures.

Ayushman Bharat is one of the big new ideas floated by the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which they believe could be a potential game changer in the upcoming electoral battles, including the general election due early next year.

The ambitious healthcare scheme will be covering almost all secondary and many tertiary hospitalizations with coverage of Rs5 lakh for each family. AB-NHPM will subsume the on-going centrally sponsored schemes Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) that offers a cover of Rs30,000 and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS) that offers up to Rs30,000/- per annum per senior citizen.

In a separate decision giving to boost to healthcare in India, the cabinet also approved continuation of the National Health Mission (NHM)—with effect from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2020—with a budgetary support of Rs85,217 crore as central share over this period.

The National Health Mission will be the main vehicle for the Universal Health Coverage and will focus on strengthening the public health systems, particularly in high priority districts that include aspirational districts. The salient features of the NHM will be a shift from selective to comprehensive primary healthcare that includes care for common non-communicable diseases, geriatric healthcare, palliative care and rehabilitative care services, etc., through strengthening of the sub centres and primary health centres as Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs).

The NHM will complement AB-NHPM, by reducing OOP expenditure through intensification of initiatives such as NHM Free Drugs and Diagnostics Services Initiatives, Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme.

The cabinet also approved amendments in The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, in a bid to improve its regulation. The bill proposes to regulate surrogacy in India by establishing National Surrogacy Board at the central level and, state surrogacy boards and appropriate authorities in the states and union territories. The proposed legislation ensures effective regulation of surrogacy, prohibit commercial surrogacy and permit altruistic surrogacy to the needy Indian infertile couples.

In other decisions, the cabinet also approved the second and final extension of the term of the Commission constituted to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the central list, beyond 27 March 2018 for a period of twelve weeks, i.e. up to 20 June 2018.


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