The Central government’s search for a suitable information technology (IT) platform for the National Health Protection Mission (NHPM) has ended in non-BJP-ruled Telangana — in an IT system that was originally designed for Rajiv Aarogyasri Yojana of the Congress government of Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in undivided Andhra Pradesh. The IT backbone of the Aarogyashri programme will support NHPM at least during the initial period. Following bifurcation of the state, the platform currently supports the health schemes of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and the reference to Rajiv Gandhi in the moniker has been done away with. It has also since been adopted by Maharashtra, and the platform currently supports 3.5 crore beneficiaries.
A MoU has already been signed with the Telangana government, which means the Centre owns the Aarogyasri platform. On Tuesday, representatives of all states were given a glimpse of the system and related time-lines before the roll-out. Given the cashless nature of NHPM, which will provide annual health cover of Rs 5 lakh each for 10.74 crore families, the IT platform is crucial for the launch. On Monday, Health Minister J P Nadda had said that “IT stabilisation” is the limiting factor in announcing a launch date for NHPM.
A committee headed by former UIDAI chairperson J Satyanarayana evaluated IT platforms of all state government health schemes and concluded that the Aarogyasri platform is the most suitable. What swung it for Aarogyasri — apart from transparency, flexibility and real-time interactive nature of the scheme — was that the Telengana government owns intellectual property rights (IPR) for the software, according to an official.
Following the MoU between the Centre and the state government, the IPR has now been transferred to the Centre.
“A robust IT system is the backbone of this scheme because of the national character and the crucial aspect of portability. The Aarogyasri platform we have chosen is the same as was in use in undivided Andhra Pradesh,” Indu Bhushan, the CEO of Ayushman Bharat, said. “Obviously it has been eight years, so it has undergone a lot of changes, but the core remains.”
He said, “We had a very good workshop with states — we discussed four modules. There will be a ‘soft launch’ for hospital empanelment on June 14. Then there will be beneficiary identification, hospital transactions, and payment systems.” Launched in 2008 by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the Rajiv Aarogyasri programme was the health flagship of the then Rajashekhara Reddy government. It was seen as one of the most important contributors in his re-election in 2009. According to NHPM time-lines, June 30 is the last date for testing of IT systems.