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Commendable Scheme

Medical treatment is so prohibitively costly that large numbers of households in the country are pushed into poverty every year. The figure could be as high as 1 crore households or 5-6 crore people, almost a third of worldwide figures, as revealed by successive World Bank and World Health Organisation reports in past few years. Such out-of-pocket expenses on health ground are so catastrophic that stricken households do not just compromise with the basic necessities of life, many even sell off their land and assets to doom their future. While demand for universal health coverage has been rising, schemes like Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana have been criticised for not casting the safety net wide enough. The Assam government has now launched its health assurance scheme ‘Atal Amrit Abhiyan’ that it had announced on December 25 last year. It aims to cover 92 per cent of the State’s population belonging to both BPL (below poverty line) and APL (above poverty line) households with annual income up to Rs 5 lakh. Under this scheme, patients suffering from six critical diseases, namely cancer, cardio-vascular disease, kidney disorder, neurological conditions, burn injuries and neo-natal complications will get monetary assistance up to Rs 2 lakh; cashless benefits will be provided for 438 select treatment procedures at empanelled hospitals; all diagnostic tests done 24 hours prior to admission of a beneficiary patient will be covered; there will also be provision to go outside the State for treatment at empanelled hospitals with fixed allowance and air fare limits. Surely this is a commendable scheme which promises to bring much needed succour to households of modest means. All eyes will now be on its implementation, particularly on its user-friendly nature and grievance redressal mechanism as promised by the State Health department.

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Ankur Kalita