Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Ayushman Bharat‘, a National health protection scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) by providing coverage up to 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization has got approval from The Lancet, the world’s most prestigious medical journal.
Lancet medical journal in its article mentions ‘Health’ as one of the most important issues in India’s upcoming general elections. Problems like Ischaemic heart disease, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer along with several other mental illnesses has been growing consistently.
According to this prestigious medical journals editor-in-chief Richard Horton, Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to prioritise universal health coverage as part of his political platform.
Though this aspect has long been neglected, the BJP Government has been prompt in recognising the hazards of public discontent about health. Under a new initiative called ‘Ayushman Bharat’, launched this year, Prime Minister Modi has implemented two new flagship programmes. First, the creation of 150 000 health and wellness centres across the country. These centres will provide a spine of primary care facilities to deliver universal health coverage. Second, the National Health Protection Mission (NHPM)—a system of health insurance that intends to cover 500 million people.
Together, these programmes should improve access to quality health services and reduce out-of-pocket health expenditures.
Horton in the same article goes on to criticise Congress President Rahul Gandhi by saying that, “Rahul Gandhi, despite his promises to help lower castes, tribal communities, and the rural poor, has yet to match Modicare”.
Rahul Gandhi, during his visit to the London School of Economics last month, reiterated that “There is a full-blown crisis in India.” By this, he meant- “jobs crisis”, said Horton in his article. But there is also a health crisis in India, as five papers published across three Lancet speciality journals—Lancet Oncology, Global Health, and Public Health—set out this week, which, undoubtedly, found no mention in the Congress President’s discourse.
While Rahul Gandhi has only been hogwashing about a “modernising impulse” in India and the possibility of “a transformation of 1·3 billion people”, PM Modi has been prompt in grasping the importance of health, not only as a natural right for India’s citizens, but also as a political device to meet the growing expectations of India’s emerging middle class.