Finances have traditionally been believed to be the biggest challenge on India’s road to universal health care but in the first eight months of the current financial year, Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), the government’s ambitious healthcare programme, managed to spend only about a third of the budget allocated to it.
Between April 1 and November 21, 2019, National Health Authority (NHA), the administrative authority for PMJAY, spent Rs 2,130 crore — or 33.29 per cent of its allocation.
In a recent finance meeting, Rs 500 crore from PMJAY’s original kitty of Rs 6,400 crore was therefore allotted to the cash-strapped Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), which has close to Rs 1,000 crore dues pending to private hospitals, which are threatening to exit government schemes.
Total allocation in 2019 Union Budget for PMJAY and Rashtriya Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (RSBY), a health insurance programme formerly with the Labour Ministry and now under the Health Ministry, was Rs 6,556 crore. Of Rs 156 crore allocated for RSBY, Rs 56 crore has so far been spent.
NHA CEO Dr Indu Bhushan declined to comment on the spending.
In 15 months since Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched it in September 2018, PMJAY has provided free in-patient care through more than 62 lakh treatments worth Rs 9,191 crore in more than 20,000 empanelled hospitals across the country. The scheme is currently functional in all states except West Bengal, Telangana and Odisha.
A senior Health Ministry official said: “The government is very clear that there should be nothing wanting in the implementation of PMJAY. Had they asked for more funds, they would have got it, but with just a third of the financial year left, they have managed to spend less than a third of the money (allocated). It is unlikely they can spend all of it. We wanted the money for health and wellness centres, but finally a decision was taken to allocate Rs 500 crore of PMJAY’s funds for CGHS.”