It is the world’s biggest health insurance scheme. The Ayushman Bharat — Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) — is based on a seminal idea of universal healthcare that welfare states must offer. The scheme may cover about 40 per cent of the population to begin with. This rises way above politics and the seeking of electoral gains even if the targeted electorate comprises those who can make all the difference in who comes to power in India. The idea takes off on what Tamil Nadu introduced six years ago as the CM’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme. If it avoids the pitfalls of red tape and petty bureaucracy denying rightful beneficiaries, the scheme will not only help energise insurance companies but also the state-run and private hospitals would enjoy the benefits of revenue flow from the governments.
The concept of becoming a true welfare state may have been around for decades but India never ventured beyond providing essential food items for the poor. Given the enormity of funds that drive such measures, they must be made efficient enough to prevent leakages while ensuring the benefits reach the intended targets. It is churlish then of five states — Telangana, Odisha, Kerala, Punjab and Delhi — not to have enrolled yet. The willingness of the system and the support staff to disseminate information about the scheme widely would ultimately determine if a majority of the sick and the unwell get the benefit of proper healthcare. Call it “Modicare” or not, Ayushman Bharat is a great idea.