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India launches world's biggest healthcare program: 10 things to know about 'Modicare'     February 1, 2018

In what could benefit over 10 crore vulnerable and under-privileged families, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday unveiled a new National Health Protection Scheme under which a health coverage of upto Rs 5 lakh per family will offered for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. "This will be the world's largest government funded health care programme," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his televised  address soon after Finance Minister's Budget speech.

The government will also establish 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres centres under the Ayushman Bharat program. "We are all aware that lakhs of families in our country have to borrow or sell assets to receive indoor treatment in hospitals. Government is seriously concerned about such impoverishment of poor and vulnerable families," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.

Meanwhile, the move has been welcomed by professionals in the healthcare sector.  Hailing the health announcements in the budget, Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) said, "This budget is directed more towards the poorer sections of the society. It remains to be seen what benefit the Aam Janata will accrue. The fact that comprehensive health care including NCDs and maternal and health services fall under this gambit is encouraging. These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic tests, a need of the hour."

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said, "The push for health coverage and insurance has been big. It is hoped that many more people will fall under the insured category this year onwards. At least one medical college for every 3 parliamentary constituencies and at least one government medical college in each state of the country is a positive step towards addressing the shortage of doctors in the country."

Commenting on the biggest announcement of the union budget 2018-19, Dr Hrishikesh D Pai, Medical Director, Bloom IVF Group said, "The budget this year has become the talk of the town and for all the right reasons - be it allocation of more funds under the National Healthcare Programme or the push towards better maternal health through the Ayushman Bharat initiative... Prevention is key to ensuring good health, something that the budget has adequately focused on. Preventive health also becomes important in light of the fact that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are rising today, leading to other conditions such as infertility. Addressing NCDs can help prevent many associated complications."

"Affordable and accessible healthcare are the need of the hour and it remains to be seen to what extent the provisions in the union budget, towards this end, materialize. Technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) is making a dent in medicine and diagnosis. The push towards exploring possibilities in this regard is a good move," Pai added.

Saurabh Arora, Founder and CEO of healthtech startup Lybrate said, "... this is a major step for making healthcare accessible to the downtrodden and marginalized sections of the society. Another laudable move is the allocation of Rs 1,200 crore for preventive health care services."

"Digitization has been happening in all sectors, and the health sector in particular stands to gain a lot from such initiatives. For healthtech startups, the idea of initiating a national programme that will direct efforts in the area of artificial intelligence, machine learning including research and development of applications is very encouraging," Arora added. 


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