Principle 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals has emphasised on the commitment of each signatory to eradicate diseases, ensure better health services and treatment to all its citizens and proactively combat new and relevant health issues that plague its people. In pursuance of this goal, the Government of India, in September, 2018, launched the ‘Ayushman Bharat’ through the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY). The initiative sought to accomplish the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The scheme was previously referred to as the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS).
The key feature of the scheme is to provide health insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to over 50 crore beneficiaries, particularly the poor and vulnerable families. Through this scheme, the Government has announced the creation of over 1,50,000 Health and Wellness centres. It has facilitated the creation of a healthier and safer society by providing maternal and child health services as well as providing free essential drugs and diagnostic services. The scheme covers 3 days of pre-hospitalisation and 15 days of post-hospitalisations. The scheme covers secondary and most tertiary care facilities. Therefore, this scheme has enabled individuals to enter public and private empanelled hospitals for health check-ups and treatments without the fear of financial risk. It has encouraged a behaviour shift away from monetary worry and towards ensuring the right to health of the individual, as envisaged under the constitution of India under Article 21.
The scheme recognised the growing trend of people being dragged into poverty as a consequence of exorbitant expenditures for hospital procedures and therefore sought to mitigate these financial risks. It therefore does not discriminate on the basis of age, gender or even the size of the family.
By using the Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (SECC 2011) for rural and urban areas, the Government has successfully rolled out financial services to the bottom 40% of the country, thereby facilitating comprehensive health care services. It has become the world’s largest health insurance scheme that is fully financed by the Government. Therefore, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) aims to “free the poor from the clutches of poverty due to which they cannot afford healthcare”.