NEW DELHI: The Centre today announced the world's largest government funded health care programme, aimed at benefiting 10 crore poor families by providing coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.
The National Health Protection Scheme, announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget for 2018-19, will cover approximately 50 crore people.
Presenting his fifth straight budget in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley said the government will set up 24 new government medical colleges and hospitals by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country.
Noting that only a "swasth Bharat" (healthy India) can be a "samriddha Bharat" (prosperous India), Jaitley said India cannot realise its demographic dividend without its citizens being healthy.
"We will launch a flagship National Health Protection Scheme to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage up to Rs 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.
"This will be the world's largest government funded health care programme. Adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this programme," the finance minister said while presenting the budget for 2018-19.
Jaitley said his government has decided to take health protection to a "more aspirational level" and observed that several state governments have also implemented or supplemented health protection schemes with varying coverage plans.
The present Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) provides annual coverage of only Rs 30,000 to poor families.
Lakhs of families in India have to borrow or sell assets to receive indoor treatment in hospitals, he said, emphasising that his government is seriously concerned about such poor and vulnerable families.
To further enhance accessibility of quality medical education and health care, the government will set up 24 new government medical colleges and hospitals by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country, the finance minister announced.
"This would ensure that there is at least one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies and at least one government medical college in each state of the country," he said.
He said the National Health Policy 2017 envisioned health and wellness centres as the foundation of India's health system.
He committed Rs 1,200 crore for the National Health Policy. This would go towards 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres to bring health care closer to the homes of people.
"These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for noncommunicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
"These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. I am committing Rs 1,200 crore in this budget for this flagship programme. I also invite contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres," he said.
Jaitley also announced two major initiatives as part of the 'Ayushman Bharat' programme aimed at making path breaking interventions to address health holistically, in the primary, secondary and tertiary care system and covering both prevention and health promotion.
The two "far-reaching" initiatives under Ayushman Bharat will build a New India 2022 and ensure enhanced productivity, well-being and avert wage loss and impoverishment.
"These schemes will also generate lakhs of jobs, particularly for women. The government is steadily but surely progressing towards the goal of Universal Health Coverage," he said.
Noting that tuberculosis claims more lives every year than any other infectious disease, he said it affects mainly poor and malnourished people.
"My government has, therefore, decided to allocate additional Rs 600 crore to provide nutritional support to all TB patients at the rate of Rs 500 per month for the duration of their treatment," he said.
After the budget, Health Minister J P Nadda tweeted,"I thank Hon PM @narendramodi ji & FM @arunjaitley ji for giving us a visionary budget with specific focus on Agriculture, employment generation, better healthcare and infrastructure development. #NewIndiaBudget"."