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Karnataka government will roll out Universal Health Coverage (UHC) from November 1 and bring all government health schemes under one umbrella.
The health coverage will be linked to Aadhaar and the state government is planning to merge seven running schemes – the Vajpayee Arogyasri, Yashaswini, Jyothi Sanjivini, Mukhyamantri Santhwana Harish Scheme, JananiShishu Suraksha Karyakram, Rajiv Arogya Bhagya, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana – into one scheme called Arogya Bhagya, covering all the 1.4 crore households in the state for cashless treatment for up to Rs 1.4 lakh in both government and private hospitals.
The new scheme was approved by the Cabinet on Monday.
UHC is a scheme where everyone is covered for basic healthcare services regardless of their economic, social or cultural background. They will be entitled to affordable and quality services which will be paid for by the government through taxes and increased spending on public health. The system will be ‘cashless’ where patients will not be required to pay user fees for the services.
The UHC will be divided into two categories. Primary care and around 1,000 surgical procedures under secondary care can be availed free of charge by the entire population at government facilities.
Category A: (Below-poverty line) BPL cardholders, farmers, workers in the unorganised sector, pourakarmikas, members of SC and ST communities, members of cooperative societies, government employees, accredited media persons, and elected representatives (comprising 1.05 crore households) do not have to make any contribution. Complicated secondary procedures (estimated at 516) that may be referred to private hospitals will also be free for Category A.
Category B: The remaining population, estimated to be around 30 lakh, is classified under this category and they can enrol by paying an annual premium of Rs 300 per person in rural areas and Rs 700 in urban areas. They are the ones likely enrolled for private medical insurance, however, they can use UHC irrespective of their income and social status. For complicated secondary procedures that may be referred to private hospitals, 30% of the cost will be reimbursed by the State.
Principal Secretary for Health and Family Welfare, Shalini Rajneesh, said that a fund of Rs 1,022 crore, allocated for various health schemes, will be pooled for UHC.
“Based on disease incidence, we have estimated that implementing UHC will cost around ₹869 crore a year,” she said, reported The Hindu.
The enrollment for the scheme will be done by ASHA workers who will rely on the data available with the Food and Civil Supplies Department.
“While we will largely rely on the data on households available with the Food and Civil Supplies Department, our ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers will go door to door to verify and enrol every person in the State. The enrolment process will be completed before November 1 and Aadhaar-linked UHC cards will be issued. People without Aadhaar can also avail benefits as we have put in place a biometric system in hospitals. Such people can later get Aadhaar cards,” said Rajneesh.
The Cabinet decided to purchase kits containing powder, soap and oil for pre-metric and residential schools of the Backward Classes Welfare Department for the year 2017-18. A sum of Rs 6.5 crore will be released to Karnataka State and Detergents Ltd. for this.
Administrative approval for construction of super-speciality hospitals on the premises of K.R. Hospital in Mysore (₹164 crore), Belgaum Institute of Medical Sciences, Belagavi (₹194 crore), and Gulbarga Institute of Medical Sciences, Kalaburagi (₹148 crore) was also given by the state Cabinet.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, he had expressed his plans to unveil a nationwide UHC known as the National Health Assurance Mission, however, its implementation was delayed due to budgetary concerns. As of now, private sector is the dominant health care provider in India.
Universal Healthcare Coverage gives equal access to health care to all citizens, irrespective of their social status and income – this is its main advantage – it is nondiscriminatory. It would also benefit private companies because with UHC in place, they would not need to pay for their employee’s health insurance, thus decreasing their cost to company for labour. UHC would ensure a healthier economy which in turn would enable people to work better and increase their standard of living.
However, since UHC is run by the government, there can be a lot of bureaucracy and red tape. Funding a health care program which is universal for all the citizens is an expensive procedure which might cause the government to increase taxes.
Moreover, UHC would not only require huge amounts of funds – the Karnataka government said that it would cost the state exchequer Rs 869 crore a year – but also adequate physical infrastructure.
The Logical Indian hopes that the Karnataka government can efficiently implement UHC, without burdening of its citizens.
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