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Ayushman Bharat Yojana

Ayushman Bharat Yojana is a health insurance scheme launched by the Central Government as a part of the Indian government’s National Health Policy. It aims at providing affordable healthcare in the form of tertiary hospital treatment to the poor and the vulnerable through a health cover of INR 5 lakhs per family per year. It is a promising step towards universal health coverage in India. The health insurance under AB-PMJAY includes medical examination, consultation and treatment of diseases, non-intensive and intensive care services, medicine and medical consumables, diagnostic and laboratory services, accommodation, food services and medical implant services, wherever possible. It also covers pre-hospitalisation expenses for 3 days and post-hospitalisation expenses for 15 days which includes medicines and diagnostics. It has once again come to the rescue of the needy in times of this devastating crisis of COVID 19.


Infecting over 2,16,12,000 people across the globe and over 26,00,000 in India alone, as on August 16, 2020, coronavirus has left no area undisturbed. India, with a population of over 6.7% below poverty line, faces a new challenge of ensuring and maintaining good health and safety of its citizens. The government is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the same. Covering the expenditure for the treatment of COVID-19 under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana is a proof of the government’s relentless efforts for safeguarding the people. As per National Health Authority’s direction, the treatment and testing of COVID-19 will be done free of cost in any of the private hospitals empanelled for the scheme.


It is also managing the call centre for the 1075 helpline of the Health Ministry. They field about 30,000 to 40,000 calls every day in terms of providing information. This has resulted into creation of a big database of citizens helping to identify the high-risk people, the elderly, those who have co-morbid conditions, etc. They have successfully made 7,00,000 calls to such high-risk people. Of those, they follow up with anyone who has COVID-19-like symptoms. Then the doctors are asked to call them to ensure that they get the right information and treatment. Their testing, treatment and isolation are also managed. Then, with the help of Aarogya Setu, all the people who report having Covid-19 like symptoms and are in categories of having been in direct contact with a COVID-19 patient are called first. First, it is ensured that the symptoms they are reporting are indeed present and after that they are connected with the doctors who offer telemedicine and ensure follow-up actions. Out of the 10.74 crore PMJAY beneficiary families, at least 80% are located in rural areas, with 1,05,000 beneficiaries in the red zone and 2,50,000 beneficiaries in the orange zone.


Earlier, the scheme mainly provided facilities by the means of government hospitals due to which people falling prey to the coronavirus often hesitated from availing such services as they feared getting infected further but the government has resolved this problem as well.


As per the information released by the National Health Authority in regard of the AB-PMJAY, more than 1,385 new hospitals have been impanelled for the expansion of the Yojana further, increasing the number to 21,565 since April 1, 2020. This number includes many private hospitals as well because more hospitals are needed for treatment of both coronavirus and non-coronavirus cases and to cater to the needs of such a large population.


To make the scheme more user friendly and tech-oriented, the Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan has also launched 'Ask Ayushman' chat bot on WhatsApp. It is an Artificial Intelligence-enabled assistant that provides information on various aspects of the AB-PMJAY scheme such as its benefits, features, process of making an e-card, locating the nearest empanelled hospital, sharing feedback and the process of lodging a grievance. One of the key features of the chat-bot is that it is able to comprehend and respond in both Hindi and English languages and it also provides text-to-speech feature for the users and can be universally used on all major social media platforms.


The utilisation of INR 6,000 crore allocated for the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana by our Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, is being made quite optimally. For the expansion of Ayushman Bharat scheme, more hospitals in Tier-II, Tier-III cities are being set up under the PPP model. The Finance Minister has also emphasised on viability gap funding for setting up hospitals in those districts with no empaneled hospitals under its insurance scheme-Ayushman Bharat. She said that proceeds from tax on medical devices will be used for funding government hospitals in tier II and tier III towns.


The Union Minister has even launched a “Hospital Ranking Dashboard” which is a significant step to rank empanelled hospitals on the basis of beneficiaries' feedback. Apart from the above, “Hindi version of the Ayushman Bharat PMJAY website” was also launched which shall enable to effectively connect with the masses and to empower them with access to right information through a user-friendly medium.


With so many efforts put in by the government of India for the betterment of the citizens, it is no surprise that the Ayushman Bharat PMJAY has accomplished the milestone achievement of providing 1 crore treatments to patients from the country's poorest households, in less than two years of its launch, as according to the government officials.


With continuous innovations and improvisations in this scheme, India will soon accomplish its goal of universal health coverage. The government has been working to avail these services at the cheapest to the lower income groups. This scheme should be brought to the notice of the people who are in dire need of extremely affordable medical facilities and we all should help the government in imparting the knowledge about this scheme so that every individual in need can benefit out of this.

By Saumya Bardia

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