Almost a year after it was announced, the ambitious scheme for a health cover for 40 crore people unveiled by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech last year is yet to be approved by the Cabinet. The scheme is supposed to roll out in April but Health Ministry officials said given the current status of the proposal, a full-scale rollout then looks difficult. The government, the officials added, may have to settle for a pilot project.
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The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) is modelled after the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a highly successful health scheme for workers below poverty line (BPL) run earlier by the Labour Ministry.
The new scheme envisages health cover of up to Rs 1 lakh for 8 crore families with provision for an additional Rs 30,000 for senior citizens.
Estimated to cost Rs 6,000 crore annually the NHPS has already been approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee.
RSBY was transferred to the Health Ministry from April 2015 to serve as the blueprint for NHPS in preparation for a scheme of universal health coverage for all citizens. Beneficiaries for NHPS will include not just people from the BPL category but also those who according to the socio-economic caste census (SECC) have been identified to have high levels of deprivation on various counts.
The proposal for the Cabinet was sent by the Health Ministry more than a month back.
Sources said the scheme needs a robust information technology platform and preparation for a nationwide rollout would take nearly a year.
Stating that some 15 or 16 states are willing to start the scheme, a senior Health Ministry official said, “To implement the scheme throughout the country, we may need eight to 12 months. Enrollment has to be done by the states and the pace of actual implementation would depend on the health systems that states already have in place.”
Health Minister J P Nadda was not available for a comment.
“We are waiting for approvals,” Health Secretary C K Mishra said.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has been given the task of developing the IT platform for the project, and work is on at the National Informatics Centre, the official said.
Health Ministry sources said pace of work on the proposal slackened in the initial months of 2016-17 financial year. That changed once the plan was reiterated by the PM in his Independence Day speech last year.