National Health Protection Mission approved by the Union Cabinet

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The National Health Protection Mission, Ayushman Bharat has been recently approved by the Union Cabinet, following its announcement during the Budget 2018-19. The Mission will provide a health cover of Rs.5 lakh per family per year to 10.7 crore families belonging to the poor sections of the country’s population. The health insurance scheme will cover hospitalisation at secondary and tertiary healthcare levels.

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The National Health Policy aims to increase public health expenditure in the country to 2.5% GDP by 2025. The world average is currently 6% while India’s GDP was 1.4% in 2016-17. The total health expenditure including the private sector is at 3.9% GDP, approximately. The public sector contributes about one-third of the total expenditure which is comparatively lower than other developed and developing nations.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare obtained Rs.56,400 crore allocation in Budget 2018-19. The National Health Mission obtained Rs.30,130 crore allocation. According to a report by NITI Aayog, the differences in health service costs have resulted in health disparities among the states. The state governments have been accorded the flexibility to increase their health budgets under 14th Finance Commission recommendations.

The patient bears the majority of the health expenditure while the public sector bears a total of 30% of the expenditure. The out-of-pocket medical expenses borne by the patients are more than the insurance covered expenditure. The out-of-pocket medical expenses include medicine costs, diagnostic costs, transportation costs, etc.

Furthermore, a majority of the urban and rural population is not covered under the national health scheme. Among the total number of people covered under a health insurance scheme in the country, one-fourth are covered by private insurance companies while three-fourth are covered under government health schemes. As far as the government health schemes are concerned, the ratio of claims made is higher than the premiums paid.

The High Level Expert Group which was established by the Planning Commission in 2011 has proposed that the healthcare provision in the country must be focussed on providing primary healthcare as prevention and early diagnosis can cut down the need for tertiary healthcare. Also, the National Health Protection Mission must be focussed on covering the dominant out-of-pocket expenditure of the patients along with the hospitalisation costs.

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