The treatment for poor under Central government's flagship health assurance programme Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) has seen a 50 per cent dip ever since the lockdown was announced on March 23. If the total number of hospital admissions under the scheme was between 25,000 to 30,000 a day before the lockdown, it has come down to 12,000 to 13,000 a day, Dr Indu Bhushan, CEO, National Health Authority (NHA), the agency that oversees AB-PMJAY said. The scheme offers free treatment costing up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for 10.74 crore poor and vulnerable families of India.
However, Dr Bhushan adds that the decline in hospital admissions was steep in elective procedures and less in critical treatments like chemotherapy and dialysis. "The drop has been more in private sector hospitals rather than public sector hospitals," he says. The state of PMJAY beneficiaries strengthens the argument put forth by private healthcare providers that they have been suffering losses and facing closure due to drastic decline in footfalls ever since nationwide lockdown started to fight COVID-19. The private players had even sought government assistance to help them tide over the crisis.
Recently, union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had announced the completion of 1 crore hospital admissions under AB-PMJAY. The government scheme which involves state governments as partners was launched 20 months ago. "Providing 1 crore treatments to patients from the country's poorest households since its launch less than two years ago is a milestone achievement for Ayushman Bharat PMJAY scheme. These treatments worth Rs 13,412 crore have been provided through a growing network of 21,565 public and private empanelled hospitals," Dr. Vardhan had stated.
The minister also expressed his gratitude to all states, which ensured that the scheme delivers on its promise especially in the unprecedented times of COVID-19. "Government is making persistent efforts to expand testing and making treatment of COVID-19 available for free to all 53 crore beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat PMJAY, further strengthening government's resolve, scope and capability to move towards universal health coverage. Concerted efforts by every health worker and all empanelled hospitals have helped us achieve the 1 crore-mark," he said.