Ayushman Bharat: Caring for the Unprivileged in the pandemic

Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY) is a flagship government scheme to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promising to ‘leave no one behind’. This scheme is aimed at the economically-vulnerable people who need healthcare facilities and helps by making their hospital treatment completely cashless. This scheme covers all the states and union territories for overall benefits of the target group. The objective of PM-JAY is to provide quality healthcare service for the financially deprived population of India, whether they are in cities or in villages. This scheme gives the coverage of Rs. 500,000 per family per year and covers secondary as well as tertiary care hospitalization in both private and public hospitals. According to Dr Indu Bhushan, CEO of the AB- PMJAY and the National Health Authority (NHA), around 10,04,2416 people have availed treatment worth over INR 13,412 crore for free in hospitals across India under the scheme since its launch in September 2018.

Key features of PM-JAY

India announced creating 1,50,000 Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs), transforming the current primary health centres and other sub centres. The Prime Minister launched AB-PMJAY, the largest health insurance in the world, on 23rd September, 2018 in Jharkhand, with an aim to accomplish the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Highlights of the scheme are:

  • It is one of the largest health insurance and government-financed schemes.
  • 74 crore families have benefited till 2019 from the scheme.
  • This scheme provides cashless access to health care during hospitalization.
  • Patients can get up to 3 days of pre hospitalization and 15 days post hospitalization medicine and diagnostic charges.
  • It covers pre-existing disease.
  • It covers various costs like drugs, diagnostic services, room, Operation Theatre (OT), surgeon charges.

Ayushman Bharat in coronavirus

With the increase in number of COVID-19 patients, the empanelled government and private hospitals started treatment of coronavirus and cover treatment cost under Ayushman Bharat scheme. It provided free testing and treatment of COVID-19 and has helped 50 crore Ayushman beneficiaries. Around 2,300 patients have availed free treatment for Covid-19 in various hospitals while over 3,000 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus until May under the health scheme.

This will help the poor of the nation to cope with the COVID-19 crisis and provide them to go for testing and treatment, which in turn will strengthen their response to the pandemic. According to NHA, hospitals under AB-PMJAY can tie up with other testing authorities to test patients. According to ICMR guideline, COVID testing in private laboratories can be done by labs complying with NABL (National accreditation Board for testing and calibration laboratories) standards and in most of the states, tests can only be done if prescribed by the physician.

Going beyond the immediate premise of work, Ayushman Bharat has also geared up to address the other aspects of the pandemic, such as addressing people’s need for information and creating a database. A call centre has been set up for the 1075 helpline of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that answers about 30,000 to 40,000 calls every day. Besides, a database of citizens is in the works that will help identify the high-risk people, such as the elderly or those who have co-morbid conditions. A whopping 700,000 calls have been made to such high-risk people and anyone who has COVID-19-like symptoms is followed up with.

References:

https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/policy/around-2300-patients-availed-free-covid-treatment-in-hospitals-under-ayushman-bharat-official/75881709

https://qz.com/india/1865845/ayushman-bharat-has-a-role-to-play-in-indias-covid-19-response/

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