THE UNION Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the constitution of a National Health Authority (NHA) through an executive order, thus taking the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) out of the ambit of the Ministry of Health. The ministry’s role will now be limited to acting as the nodal ministry for NHA in parliamentary matters, like the presentation of annual reports.
The Cabinet also approved a proposal to upgrade the post of the NHA CEO to that of a Secretary to the Government of India with full financial powers. Till now, all funds released by the National Health Agency, which is implementing the PM-JAY, were done through the Ministry of Health.
The NHA’s governing board will be chaired by the Minister for Health and Family Welfare, while its members will include NITI Aayog CEO and NHA CEO. The move, according to officials, was necessary for seamless implementation of the health programme that is being personally monitored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Under the aegis of the governing board, the CEO — a post currently held by Dr Indu Bhushan — will have complete administrative control of the NHA. “We are humbled by the faith reposed by the Cabinet in according the status of an Authority to the National Health Agency. We reaffirm our commitment to realise the ambitious vision of Hon’ble Prime Minister,” said Dr Bhushan.
The board will meet at least once in three months. The proposal envisages statutory backing for NHA eventually. Till then, it will be an adjunct office of the ministry — like the department of health research — with complete functional autonomy. The original plan was to have the NHA report to NITI Aayog, which had moved the Cabinet proposal, but that has now changed.
Launched on September 23 last year, the PM-JAY entitles 10.74 crore families to an annual health cover of Rs 5 lakh. A part of the overarching Ayushman Bharat scheme, it is currently administered by the National Health Agency, which is a registered society under the Ministry of Health. While the ministry is not responsible for the day-to-day running of the scheme, it does have a say in policy matters.
Now, the NHA will be responsible for its operational guidelines, fixing the ceiling of premium amounts, and developing mechanisms for strategic purchase of healthcare from the private sector. It is also tasked with building a health information technology platform, and working with the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority.