By Kanchan Dass
In what appeared to be taking a cue from ‘Obamacare’ in the US, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today announced several healthcare measures in the Budget, which prompted experts to coin it as India’s ‘Modicare’.
Jaitley announced two key new initiatives under the ‘Ayushman Bharat Program’.
1. He announced a Flagship ‘National Health Protection Scheme’ which aims to provide health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year. Now, Rs 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, with approximately 50 crore beneficiaries, can access secondary and tertiary care hospitals for procedures which were hitherto out of bounds for them.
2. He also announced creation of 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres, where preventive health care services — screening for hypertension, diabetes, and cancers — could be availed. They will also provide free essential drugs. He said these centres will “bring healthcare closer to home”. Jaitley allocated Rs 1200 crores for this.
Apart from these two major announcements, the Finance Minister also announced:
3. Setting up of 24 new government medical colleges by upgrading the existing district hospitals in the entire country. He added that there will be at least one medical college for three parliamentary constituencies.
4. Earmarking of Rs 600 crore towards providing nutritional support to the patients suffering from Tuberculosis.
5. Benefit claim by all senior citizens of a deduction of 50,000 for any medical expenditure.
6. Increasing the deduction to 1,00,000 for critical illnesses.