As PM Modi rolls out Ayushman Bharat, remember when P P Bajpai said insurance pushes people to die

Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally launched Ayushman Bharat, now aptly renamed the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (PMJAY) at a massive gathering in Ranchi yesterday. Over 10 crore of India’s poorest families will be covered under this scheme, which approximates to over 50 crore or a whopping 500 million people who will now be covered.

It is practically redundant to point out that this is the largest scheme of such nature that the world has ever seen. But it is probably important to point out, as Modi did yesterday, that while some parties have ruled for 6 decades in the name of the “poor,” they couldn’t envision something of this magnitude to actually help the poor.

The key feature of this scheme is that it brings private competition into the mass market of Indian healthcare. This is something that deserves to be understood in full.

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Until now, only the rich had access to private healthcare, while the poor were stuck with mostly lousy government hospitals. What was the underlying market reason for that?

Because, so far, there was no way for the poor to afford private healthcare at any sustainable price point. As such, there was no incentive for private healthcare providers to find ways to lower costs. Hence, private healthcare remained something marketed exclusively to the rich.

Things have changed now. Suddenly, every poor person in India has Rs 5 lakh of government money attached to them. This generates an incentive for private players to cut costs and invite in this massive pool of new customers. The underlying economics is always the same, whether with mobile phones, computers or air travel. When you can reach out to a larger market, costs go down for everybody.

Ayushman Bharat, which covers 500 million people, could well turn out to be Prime Minister Modi’s greatest legacy.

Of course, because this is Modi, we can expect that starting today, the eminent liberals in our media will be on a mission to find glitches and shortcomings in the scheme.

Let me give you fair warning. Our media may soon inform you that Ayushman Bharat is NOT perfect. Unlike all those other schemes in the world that involve 500 million people.

After all, the one thing that Ayushman Bharat does not cover is Modi Derangement Syndrome. The symptoms of this disease are a complete loss of logic, balance and reason. People in the media, academia and intelligentsia who had it real good during the rule of Sonia Gandhi are particularly at risk. The progression of this degenerative brain disease takes people from hating Modi to hating Hindus to hating India and finally to a job at some outlet such as The Wire.

Let me give you just one example of an early sufferer who was displaying advanced stage symptoms in mid-2015 itself. Here is Punya Prasun Bajpai, then a prominent anchor at Aaj Tak, sitting down with Amit Shah to discuss the first year of Modi Sarkar (watch from 19:10)

Amit Shah: As far as marketing is concerned, it is a must. Unless I proclaim loudly on Aaj Tak that accident insurance is available for just Rs 12, how will people know about it and avail it?

P P Bajpai: Sir, these facilities that you want to provide after death; the public is wondering why your schemes cannot help when they are alive.

Amit Shah: What? Are you against the concept of insurance?

P P Bajpai: No, we are worried about getting two meals first…

Amit Shah: No seriously, are you against the concept of insurance?

P P Bajpai: We are against all schemes that push people towards death…

Amit Shah: Huh? Push people towards death… 

This is what Modi Derangement Syndrome can do to someone. They get so carried away in their hatred for all things connected to Modi that they end up seeing strange visions of insurance being something that pushes people towards death!

I wonder what Punya Prasun Bajpai is thinking today, with Ayushman Bharat being rolled out for 500 million people. This must be a genocide, then? They all said it. Modi is like Hitler. And now the Ayushman Bharat holocaust is finally here.

I can imagine Punya Prasun Bajpai hiding inside his house right now, possibly throwing faeces at a wall (well, if you that that’s too outlandish, left in the US has done it, and left in India just copies them). And screaming uncontrollably that Modi is pushing 500 million people towards their deaths. And how the voice of balanced, unbiased journalists like him is being silenced.

What do you think he is doing?

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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