After getting the green light from the Union Cabinet, the Centre has started preparing a roadmap for the implementation of its ambitious Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM).

In a meeting in this regard was held by the Ministry of Health to discuss two major challenges—preventing fraud claims and tackling the problem of lack of hospital network in rural areas, sources close to the Ministry of Health said.

According to sources, the Centre is likely to announce the implementation of its ambitious AB-NHPM scheme by the end of this year. The scheme envisages medical coverage to 10 crore poor families, with an annual insurance ceiling up to Rs 5 lakh per family.

A senior official of a private sector insurance company told The Sunday Guardian, “In the meeting, government officials discussed various issues, including ways of preventing fraud claims that are expected to rise with the launch of AB-NHPM. Government officials also showed their concern about the lack of the network of hospitals in rural areas.”

To meet the demands of AB-NHPM, more government medical colleges and hospitals need to be opened; however, the present scenario is dismal as there are 479 medical colleges affiliated to the Medical Council of India (MCI), as opposed to 543 parliamentary constituencies. 

“Currently, there is no standard procedure in place to provide treatment for any disease in the country. Hospitals also take advantage of this and initiate unnecessary procedures for patients’ treatment.

Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission

In order to effectively implement AB-NHPM, such practices also need to be checked. The Centre and insurance companies are contemplating to create a mechanism in this regard,” the same official cited above said.

A senior health ministry official told The Sunday Guardian: “No doubt, there is a shortage of a network of hospitals in the rural areas. However, the presence of small nursing homes has increased and that can prove to be a driving force in providing free treatment under the insurance scheme. Also, under AB-NHPM, the government has proposed the opening of more hospitals, especially in rural areas.”

“The Ministry of Health is currently identifying the inaccurate records in its database and planning to insert the names of the targeted beneficiaries. In rural areas, the government has inducted the rural development ministry and gram panchayats as the facilitator for AB-NHPM, whereas in the urban space, the government has charted out a plan to ensure the involvement of civic authorities for implementation of the scheme,” the health ministry official added.

The Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had unveiled the AB-NHPM, a mega healthcare project which the government claimed was the world’s biggest healthcare scheme. The AB-NHPM will target up to 50 crore individuals from financially vulnerable households, a demographic that accounts for almost 41.3% of the total Below Poverty Line (BPL) population.