PM Narendra Modi’s reiteration in his Independence Day address about the Centre’s commitment to providing a health cover of Rs 1 lakh to the poor may give National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) a much-needed push.
The Health Ministry has already prepared a Cabinet note on the scheme and will circulate it soon, according to senior ministry officials. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced the scheme in his Budget speech this year.
“Healthcare services are getting costlier and today, from the ramparts of Red Fort, our government is announcing an important step for healthcare of families below the poverty line,” Modi said Monday. “We have brought a scheme that in future the Government of India will incur an expenditure of up to Rs 1 lakh so that my poor brothers are not deprived of health services and their dreams are not shattered.”
The health protection scheme, modelled after Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), has already obtained the Expenditure Finance Committee’s approval. Run by the Labour Ministry since 2008, RSBY was transferred to the Health Ministry with effect from April 2015 to serve as the blueprint for NHPS in preparation for a scheme of universal health coverage for all citizens.
“Catastrophic health events are the single most important cause of unforeseen out-of-pocket expenditure which pushes lakhs of households below the poverty line every year,” Jaitley had said in his Budget speech earlier this year. “In order to help such families, the government will launch a new health protection scheme which will provide health cover up to Rs 1 lakh per family. For senior citizens (in) this category, an additional top-up package up to Rs 30,000 will be provided.”
The scheme, estimated to cost approximately Rs 24,000 crore for a five-year period, is projected to initially benefit nearly 10 crore families. The initial target is to make it available to families below the poverty line, as also to those in the list of deprivations as per socio-economic caste census data. While the working name for now remains NHPS, officials said once the final contours are worked out it may get a new name.