Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday chaired ‘Aarogya Manthan’ 2.0 to celebrate the second anniversary of Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), which he called a “historic step”.
Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) is a Central government scheme to provide free access to healthcare for all people in the country. People using the programme access their own primary care services from a family doctor. When anyone needs additional care, then the scheme provides free secondary health care for those needing specialist treatment and tertiary health care for those requiring hospitalisation.
Part of the National Health Policy, the programme was launched on September 23, 2018 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the National Health Authority was subsequently set up to administer it.
Lauding AB-PMJAY, Harsh Vardhan said: “As the world’s largest public-supported health assurance scheme, it provides financial risk protection to over 53 crore Indians from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds by assuring them with a health cover of Rs 5 lakh per eligible family per year to avail cashless inpatient secondary and tertiary healthcare.”
It has provided treatments worth more than Rs 15,500 crore, he said, adding crores of lives have been saved and households helped from getting wiped out due to catastrophic expenditure on health that pushed an estimated six crore families below the poverty line each year.
He also added that in these two years, the scheme has provided free treatment to more than 1.26 crore beneficiaries. Over 23,000 hospitals have been empanelled so far and more than 12.5 crore e-cards have been issued. 57 per cent of the total amount utilised has been for tertiary procedures related to treatment of major illnesses like cancer, cardiac ailments, orthopaedic problems, and neo-natal issues.
Harsh Vardhan said that 45 per cent of the empanelled hospitals are private facilities providing 52 per cent of the overall treatments and raising 61 per cent of the hospital admissions claims amount.
He also outlined the scheme’s portability as one of its outstanding feature. “An eligible patient from any state implementing PMJAY can avail of cashless treatment anywhere in India, in any empanelled hospital. Portability has been built into the design of the scheme and enabled 1.3 lakh citizens of the migrant population to avail of care at the nearest hospital.”
The Health Minister added that PMJAY’s capability building approach would go a long way in making Prime Minister’s dream of Aatmanirbhar Bharat a reality.
On the way ahead, he said: “The focus this year will be on expanding the reach of the PMJAY network and services to other left-out population groups such as manual scavengers, road traffic victims, truck drivers, among others through convergence with other Central health schemes.”
“Along with the recently launched National Digital Health Mission, which will build the necessary digital health ecosystem to enable enhanced access to safe, timely, quality and affordable healthcare for 1.3 billion Indians, Ayushman Bharat will become a pillar of the country’s healthcare system.”
Delhi-based public experts also welcomed the achievements. Dr Shuchin Bajaj, Founder-Director of Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals, said: “Ayushman Bharat is truly a game-changer in the way it has brought about access to healthcare to the most deprived communities.”
“Unfortunately, 6 million people in India are still below the poverty line every year just because of the healthcare costs. For such people, Ayushman Bharat has played a great role in ensuring that this kind of abject poverty doesn’t occur in communities.”
Kamal Narayan, CEO of IHW Council, also said that the scheme lifted crores of people out of poverty caused by the burden of medical expenses, brought them under the safety net of health insurance and freed them from the crowded public hospitals.
“In this time of Covid, more beneficiaries chose private hospitals over government ones during lockdown is a testimony to the fact that people were looking for measures that ensure quality treatment at affordable price in private hospitals. Ayushman Bharat has saved lakhs of lives from people belonging to the weaker section of the society not only by providing free treatment, but also through attending to their queries, addressing a long-standing gap,” he said.