By Dripto Mukhopadhyay
Expert in Applied Economics & Consumer Behaviour Practitioner, New Delhi.
Issue - Healthcare Perspectives
Date - 1st May 2018
The Union Government’s budget speech of 2018-19 announced two major initiatives, the National Health Protection Scheme and the establishment of Health and Wellness Centres. Central and state governments have always put health at the forefront of planning, but public health expenditure as a percentage of GDP has remained low. Low expenditure, skewed distribution of coverage across states, lack of facilities in government hospitals among other problems prevail in the public health sector.
The National Health Policy, 2017 envisioned 1.5 lakh health and wellbeing centres to bring health care system closer to locations where people live. A budget of 1200 crore was allocated for this flagship programme. Admitting that lakhs of families in India borrow or sell assets to receive indoor treatments at hospitals, the Indian Finance Minister stated during the January 31, 2018 budget speech that the “Government is seriously concerned about such impoverishment of poor and vulnerable families. Present Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) provides annual coverage of only 30,000 poor families. Several state governments have also implemented/supplemented health protection schemes providing varying coverage. My government has now decided to take health protection to more aspirational level. We will launch a flagship National Health Protection Scheme to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary...