British medical journal Lancet has praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for prioritising universal healthcare with his Ayushman Bharat initiative. An article by the journal's editor-in-chief Richard Horton appreciated the Modi government for recognising the 'perils of public discontent about health' after years of neglect. The piece also talked about the role healthcare issues will play in deciding the next Lok Sabha polls.
Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to prioritise universal health coverage as part of his political platform, Horton wrote in his article.
Under the Ayushman Bharat programme, popularly called Modicare, Narendra Modi has launched two flagship schemes. First of them is establishing 1.5 lakh health centres across the country to deliver universal health coverage. The second half of the Modicare provides health insurance to 50 crore people under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana. The latter scheme provides medical insurance worth Rs 5 lakh to poor individuals for secondary and tertiary healthcare. The amount is given for one financial year.
Together, these twin programmes should improve access to quality health services and reduce out-of-pocket health expenditures, the Lancet article said.
The article also took potshots at Rahul Gandhi for his inability to match Modicare despite his promises to help the vulnerable classes, while mentioning the electoral defeats of the Indian National Congress president. "Rahul Gandhi, despite his promises to help lower castes, tribal communities, and the rural poor, has yet to match Modicare," the article said.
The article also underlined the importance of healthcare facilities in light of the upcoming General Elections in 2019. "Modi has grasped the importance of health not only as a natural right for India's citizens, but also as a political instrument to meet the growing expectations of India's emerging middle class," the Lancet article read.
There is now every prospect that as the BJP and Congress set out competing and contrasting visions for India's future, health will rightly become a decisive issue in next year's general election, Horton further wrote.