Every year close to 4.6% of the population of India slips below poverty due to unprecedented health expenses. It was matter of concern that around 63%1 of our population was not covered under any form of health protection. High out of pocket expenditure, low insurance and increasing costs of secondary and tertiary healthcare forced people to sell their land and other valuable assets to meet financial crisis on account of healthcare expenditure. To immediately arrest the monetary crisis that arose when a family member fell ill, Ayushman Bharat was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is the largest health insurance scheme in the world. With a beneficiary pool of around 50 crore1 this scheme is expected to touch lives of close of 10.74 crore1 families of India. However, it must be remembered that Ayushman Bharat is not just a healthcare scheme.
It is an opportunity for India to refurbish its healthcare infrastructure, increase penetration of tertiary healthcare services in rural India, make healthcare an attractive avenue for investment and an agent for job creation.
• Ayushman Bharat, under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) is expected to reduce financial burden and simultaneously ensure access to requisite healthcare, regardless of the affordability level of the patient.
• A lot of times patients would be declined treatment due to unavailability to security deposit. Also, empirical studies observe health of women is often ignored due to paucity of resources. This cashless scheme that covers all pre-existing diseases, this scheme puts no limit on size of the family.
• As a social welfare scheme, it aims to cover 10.74 crore families. These include deprived rural populace and certain occupational categories in urban areas. The exhaustive scheme covers 1,3501 medical packages including surgery, medical and day care treatments including medicines, diagnostics and transport.
• It is interesting to note that one of the multiple facets of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ is related to overall wellbeing of Indians. Every citizen of India is an asset for the Nation, and their health is critical in determining the course of the Nation’s future.
Healthcare Economics and Infrastructure
• For past several decades, Indians either compromised on quality of healthcare or slipped into debt by availing treatment at a state of the art private hospital. The trade-off between cost and quality is eventually eliminated by Ayushman Bharat, which unlike the previous healthcare schemes, collaborates with both, state-of-the art private and public players.
• Until now, small hospitals and government hospitals suffered from shortage of human resources and availability of adequate facilities. With the launch of this scheme, it incentivizes these facilities to upgrade their infrastructure, get accredited with concerned agencies and subsequently get empaneled with Ayushman Bharat.
• We have seen patients travel long distances from rural areas, just to get treated at a particular hospital in a city. This was due to existing disparities in facilities at rural and urban areas. Creation of National Health Agency will standardize pricing and protocols in healthcare. Moreover, the agency will ensure there is investment in information technology and healthcare infrastructure across all empaneled hospitals.
• As more beneficiaries avail Ayushman Bharat and pool of empaneled hospitals widens, investment in healthcare is also expected to increase at a much faster pace. This will further feed into healthcare infrastructure and technology. 14,754 hospitals are already empanelled with Ayushman Bharat (as on March 6, 2019) of which around 50% are private players.
• With more documented evidence on certain diseases, Ayushman Bharat will be instrumental in defining contours of healthcare research in India.
Agent of Job Creation
• Almost 1 lakh Ayushman Mitras are expected to be recruited, creating fresh job opportunities. At every hospital empanelled with Ayushman Bharat, an Ayushman Mitra will allocated, whose primary responsibility will be to coordinate between the patient and the hospital administration. She will also be responsible for verifying the requisite paperwork and eligibility of the beneficiary. These job opportunities are over and above the increased demand for conventional roles including doctors and nurses.
For India’s demography to participate and contribute to near-term and medium term growth, it is essential that the population is healthy and serves the nation to the best of its capacity for many more years to come. However, it is notable that Ayushman Bharat is beyond just another healthcare scheme. It will prove to be a critical driver for shaping the future of both, healthcare and ancillary sectors in the domain. Last but not the least; Ayushman Bharat will also start the trend of policy making that is driven by a social objective yet economically attractive for the private sector.