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Explained: The role of Odisha’s health scheme in BJD’s rural polls clean sweep

The Odisha government has distributed smart health cards to beneficiaries under its flagship Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana. What is this scheme, and how does it compare to the Centre's Ayushman Bharat?

Written by Aishwarya Mohanty , Edited by Explained Desk | Bhubaneswar |
Updated: March 3, 2022 7:42:55 am
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik distributes smart health cards under the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana in Ganjam district. (ANI Photo)

The ruling Biju Janta Dal (BJD) in Odisha, led by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, won a record 766 Zilla Parishad seats out of the total 853 in the rural elections, the results of which were formally announced by the state election commission Tuesday.

By winning 60 per cent more seats than what it had in 2017, (473), the BJD is set to form Zilla Parishads (ZP) in all the 30 districts in Odisha, an unprecedented feat in the history of the three-tier panchayat elections in the state. The BJD also secured 52.73 per cent votes, the highest vote share it has had in any election in the state.

Though the massive win is being attributed to the groundwork the BJD launched on a war-footing in October last year, what remained constant throughout all districts was distribution of smart health cards under the state’s flagship Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY).

Patnaik, who has refrained from attending the assembly sessions, meeting his own party members or even attending any public events since the beginning of the pandemic, made sure that he visited every district either in person or virtually to distribute the smart health cards, while also announcing other district specific developmental projects.

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The BSKY scheme

The health scheme was launched on August 15, 2018, aimed at providing Universal Health coverage, with special emphasis on the health protection of economically vulnerable families. The scheme has two components, one a free health services for all (irrespective of income, status or residence) in all state government healthcare facilities starting from sub center level up to District Head Quarter Hospital level, and two, additional facility of free healthcare beyond District Headquarters hospital level, for over 70 lakh economically vulnerable families in the state.

Every family enrolled under Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana is eligible for Rs 5 lakh from the state government, while women get cover of Rs 10 lakh under this scheme. All health services are free of cost, including free drugs, free diagnostics, free dialysis, free cancer chemotherapy, free OT, free ICU, in-patient admission etc., in all government health institutions up to district headquarters hospital level, for all persons.

A revamped version of BSKY scheme ahead of the rural polls

On August 15, 2021, ahead of the rural elections, CM Patnaik announced the provision of smart health cards for all beneficiaries and expanding the beneficiary base to cover 92.5 lakh families under BSKY. The scheme initially had 71.69 lakh families as beneficiaries.

Earlier, 69.69 lakh Biju Krushak Kalyan Yojana (BKKY) cardholders and around two lakh BPL, AAY card holders and low-income families were availing the BSKY benefits. After the announcement on Independence day last year, all families covered under National Food Security Act (NFSA) and SFSA also became eligible for BSKY. As many as 183 private hospitals in the state and 17 hospitals outside Odisha were empanelled. All districts in the state were covered by the end of last year.

As per the existing system, no document is required for cashless healthcare service in government facilities. The beneficiaries will have to produce the smart card or food security card at the empanelled private hospitals for availing cashless care up to annual financial limit, which will apply for a one-year period. after which it will be auto-renewed.

BSKY vs Ayushman Bharat

Almost a month after the launch of BSKY, the central government had launched its health scheme — Ayushman Bharat – on September 28, 2018. Odisha is one of the only four states which has not accepted the health coverage scheme. The state government’s refusal to implement the scheme has also time and again featured as a central issue between the state BJP and the ruling BJD.

While the BJP alleges that the state government has not implemented the central scheme to prevent boosting the BJP’s prospects in the state, the BJD claims the state health scheme is far better.

Some of the differences involve the package cap, which is Rs 5 lakh a year under Ayushman Bharat but goes upto Rs 10 lakh under BSKY. While BSKY covers over 90 lakh families, Ayushman Bharat can cover only 60 lakh families. The BJP, however, claims that implementation of the central scheme can help the migrant population of the state access quality healthcare.

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