Jaitley's 'poor' health schemes

Government increases allocations for all existing schemes

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Monday 29 February 2016

The finance minister has allocated Rs 19,000 crore for the National Health Mission
Credit:Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade/Flickr

In his third budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposed to launch health insurance scheme after acknowledging public health as an important social sector. However, the government did not increase allocations on several existing health programmes significantly.

Jaitley announced that the new insurance scheme will provide up to Rs 1 lakh per family in the below poverty line category. For senior citizens (60 years and above) belonging to this category, an additional top-up package of up to Rs 30,000 will be provided.

Experts have been suggesting improvement in the public health infrastructure.

The finance minister has allocated Rs 19,000 crore for the National Health Mission, which is slightly higher than the budget estimate of 2015-16 (Rs 18,875.3 crore).

Similarly, Rs 2,450 crore has been allocated for the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna in comparison to Rs 2,156 crore in 2015-16. Similarly, the government allocated Rs 1,500 crore for the Rashtriya Swasthya Suraksha Yojna in comparison to Rs 1,420.5 crore in the previous budget.

In a bid to improve women’s health, Jaitley promised LPG connections to BPL families. He said the government was launching a new initiative to ensure that these families were provided cooking gas connections on subsidy.

This will give respite to millions of women who have to rely on traditional cooking stoves (chulhas) for cooking.

Other announcements on public health were opening of 3,000 stores under the Prime Minister’s Jan Aushadhi Yojana during 2016-17.

Jaitley also proposed to start a National Dialysis Services Programme and said that funds would be made available on a public-private partnership mode to provide the service in all district hospitals.

According to him, about 2.2 lakh new patients suffering from end-stage renal disease get added in India every year, resulting in an additional demand for 3.4 crore dialysis sessions.

With approximately 4,950 dialysis centres across India, mostly in the private sector and concentrated only in major towns, the demand is only half met. Every dialysis session costs about Rs 2,000–an annual expenditure of more than Rs 3 lakh.

Vivekanand Jha, professor of nephrology at PGIMER, Chandigarh, and executive director, George Institute for Global Health, said that the new announcements on proposals related to improving public health were heartening.

“The increased coverage on health promotion scheme is welcome, but falls short of what will be adequate for coverage for treatment of major illnesses. We await the details of how this amount is to be spent—whether it is only for coverage of cost of illnesses, or will it be spent on promoting health, or bolstering the primary health sector to keep people healthy and out of hospitals,” he said.

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