Pros and Cons of Modicare
AN AUDACIOUS ANNOUNCEMENT DURING THE UNION BUDGET RAISES HOPE AND SCEPTICISM. WILL THE HEALTH SCHEME BE PM MODI’S LEGACY OR AN ALBATROSS? THERE’S NO EASY ANSWER
Is the government’s new health insurance plan the panacea for all of the country’s healthcare ills?
ON FEBRUARY 1, ABOUT 41 MINUTES INTO HIS BUDGET 2018 speech, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley delivered the piece de resistance: “Madam speaker, my government has now decided to take health protection to a more aspirational level.” With cabinet colleagues cheering him on, he outlined the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), offering hospitalisation coverage of Rs 5 lakh a year to 100 million poor and vulnerable families, or 500 million Indians. “This will be the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme,” he promised—a nod towards ‘New India 2022’, and ‘universal healthcare’. A smile creased Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s usually inscrutable demeanour as he thumped the table in robust approval.
Modi knows how to capture the magical power of dreams. In his last 44 months in power, the premier of the world’s largest democracy has announced a raft of “world’s largest” schemes: Aadhaar to Jan Dhan Yojana, Pahal to Swachh Bharat, Digital Saksharta to Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana to GST. Now comes the NHPS, under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana. “A constant worry in poor people’s lives is how to treat illness. Will free them from this big worry,” the PM tweeted.