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इंडियन आवाज़     25 May 2024 05:24:45      انڈین آواز

Promise of Ayushman to seniors in BJP manifesto, result of social media pressure

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Devsagar Singh / New Delhi

        The BJP’s  outreach to an estimated 15 crore senior citizens  in the country by including those above 70 in the Ayushman  health cover in its manifesto released yesterday may not be a master stroke on the eve of elections but it certainly is an acknowledgment of a long delayed action.  This section comprising almost 10 per cent of population  in their twilight years was left to fend for themselves with no social security.

            One of the key factors for the inclusion of the seniors in the ruling party’s manifesto was relentless social media pressure pillorying the Government for its indifferent attitude towards those who gave their working life in the country’s service. Most of the private insurance companies stopped giving them health insurance cover beyond 70 and a few who extended this facility fleeced them by forcing them to pay a  hefty premium.

           Going by the Ayushman track record which offered Rs 5 lakh worth of free medical facilities to rural household per annum, it is difficult to assess how helpful it would be to the senior citizens,  if and when implemented.  But if the BJP  retains power, it gives a glimmer of hope to the seniors who needed greater healthcare attention. Ayushman health cards have, indeed, been issued to rural household, but reports suggest the private hospitals refuse to entertain them under  one pretext or another. Unless there is a firm regulator ensuring implementation of the Ayushman benefits, it will come to nothing.  Now that the Government is promising  a widened coverage of the scheme, it should make provisions for better and stricter implementation with penal provisions.

           Under the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna, touted as the largest health insurance scheme of its kind in the world , beneficiaries get health cover  of Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. By including seniors in it,  the scheme becomes bigger in size and reach. According to a UN report last year, there were 14.9 crore people aged 60 years and above in India , comprising around 10.5 per cent of the population. This is estimate to increase to 15 per cent (around22.7 crore) by 2036. According to the report,  by 2050 the share of older people would touch  20.8 per cent (34.7 crore).

       Any Government will ignore such a big number of people  at its own peril. The BJP manifesto’s inclusion of this section has , therefore, come not a day too soon. It is also heartening to note that the party in power promises to expand healthcare facilities across the country to include all sections of people. What is required, however. is to conduct a nationwide survey of existing healthcare infrastructure, specially in rural areas. Health being a state subject, it is largely ignored for want of funds by the state authorities. It is for the Central Government to see how best it can chip in the health sector. By creating AIIMS in state capitals, the Centre has been able to provide  healthcare facilities to people mostly living in the capital town and nearby areas.  Vast rural population remains largely untouched. It is this section which needs to be helped.

                But why are the healthcare promises not becoming campaign slogans of the ruling party or any party for that matter? Probably because they know that it is not easy to fulfil. Let seniors show the way  to the parties now. The acid test of the ruling party’s promise of healthcare facilities , indeed,  lies in their implementation.

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