Ayushman Bharat, the new, flagship health initiative of the government, has two dimensions.
First, it aims to roll out comprehensive primary health care with Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) serving as the people-centric nuclei.
- A nationwide network of 1.5 lakh HWCs will be created by transforming the existing sub-centres and primary health-care centres by 2022.
- This will constitute the very foundation of New India’s health care system.
- So far, the country’s primary health care has been focussing on reproductive, maternal health, newborn and child health as well as controlling priority communicable diseases
- All this perhaps covers only 15% of our needs
- There is a huge unmet need for primary health care, namely, care for non-communicable diseases (hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease, and common cancers), mental health, care of the aged, adolescent health, palliative health care, basic eye care and dental health
- If we build a strong, robust next generation primary health-care system, it will save lives and will lead to a healthier India
- The government has committed for two-thirds of resources to go into a comprehensive primary health care as part of the policy
The second dimension of Ayushman Bharat is the National Health Protection Scheme which aims to provide health cover of ₹5 lakh per family per year for hospitalisation in secondary and tertiary care facilities.
- The programme will cover half a billion people and would align with what the State governments are doing already, with significant resources coming from the Centre
- Many State governments would extend the benefits to additional beneficiaries through their own resources so that ultimately the population covered for catastrophic expenses could be two-thirds of India’s population, if not more
- This mission enables increased access to in-patient health care for the poor and lower middle class
- Treatment will be provided by empanelled public and private hospitals
- Private hospitals will have to agree to terms such as package rates, adherence to standards and guidelines, ethical practice, respectful care and client satisfaction, and transparency
The way forward:
- Ayushman Bharat will spur increased investment in health and generate lakhs of jobs, especially for women, and will be a driver of development and growth. It is a turning point for the health sector.