Ayushman Bharat Scheme beneficial in the COVID-19 crisis

By Madeeha Khan

With the rising global pandemic of COVID-19 in India, the hospital bills have started flooding. In India, only 20% of the total population can afford health insurances. Mostly, they just pay for all the expense from their pockets. India’s public health insurance for the pauperize help them to get rid of some of their financial burden. Ayushman Bharat scheme acts a savior here.

Ayushman Bharat scheme also known as Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) provides a health cover of up to Rs. 5 Lakh for 100 million families across the country. The National Health Authority (NHA) is the apex body responsible for implementing India’s flagship public health insurance scheme, Ayushman Bharat. It has been playing an important role in the COVID-19 crisis. The NHA has decided to cover the COVID-19 treatment expenses for the poorest of the poor in private hospitals under this scheme.

However, currently they have limited the scheme to less than half of India’s 1.3 billion people. Indu Bhushan, CEO of the National Health Authority told in an interview with Quartz that, “There is a large group that is missing out, and hopefully… we should be getting that group also covered, even if it means getting some financial contribution from them.” As it a flagship scheme of the central government, it aims to provide free health coverage to the 40% poor and vulnerable people at the secondary and tertiary level.

The Ayushman Bharat’s role in this pandemic has been great. They are managing call centre for the 1075 helpline of the health ministry. They have handled about 30,000 to 40,000 calls per day in terms of providing information. They now also have a huge database showing those who are at a higher risk, and have called around 7 lakhs people with such high risks. They also make sure to communicate with the people showing COVID-19 symptoms. They ask their doctors to take a follow- up about the right treatment being provided to them. If the patients need any testing, treatment or isolation they make the arrangements for it. They make it a point to call the people showing COVID-19 symptoms first. PM-JAY try to confirm if the symptoms still exist, then connect them to a doctor and offer telemedicine and ensure a follow-up. They have also expanded their empanelling to more private hospitals, as all of us need more hospitals, not only for COVID-19 but also for non-COVID-19 critical activities like dialysis and chemotherapy. In the past one and a half months they have impanelled more than 1,000 new hospitals to take care of everyone.

On Saturday, 20th June 2020 Glenmark pharmaceuticals, launched an anti-viral drug, ‘Favipiravir’ for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 cases. Glenmark pharmaceuticals is a Mumbai based pharmaceutical firm. They have released it under the brand name FabiFlu. It has received an approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). This is the first oral Favipiravir approved medication in India for the treatment of COVID-19.

But they have priced one tablet of Rs.103 and for a 200 mg of 34 tablets strip at Rs. 3,500. As per the experts one individual will require minimum 2 strips of these tablets, costing up to Rs. 7,000. As a result of this global pandemic many individuals have lost their jobs and will not be able to afford the medicine at such prices.

Ayushman Bharat should look into this matter and try to make them free for the ones unable to purchase it or they can at least try to make the prices low for the people that fall under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme category. We’ve already lost many lives in 2020 and we shall aim to not lose any more. It is essential for us to ensure that no soul is neglected to gain the privilege of getting treatment due to lack of money.

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