The Supreme Court Friday sought responses from the Centre and others on a plea which has sought to declare as illegal and unconstitutional the actions of states, including Delhi and West Bengal, in not implementing Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana'. Besides the Centre, a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde also issued notices to the National Health Authority (NHA), Telangana, West Bengal, Odisha and Delhi seeking their replies on the plea which has also sought a direction for implementing the scheme for poor and middle class people in these states.
NHA is the apex body responsible for implementing Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, the flagship public health insurance/assurance scheme of the Central government. Issue notice returnable in two weeks, said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
The apex court was hearing a plea filed by Hyderabad-based Perala Shekhar Rao who has sought direction to the authority concerned to prepare a scheme for providing the option to people of these states to either avail Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana' or the insurance scheme implemented by the respective states. The petition, drafted by advocate Sravan Kumar, said that the Centre has been implementing the health insurance scheme for 50 crore people of the country with an annual budget of Rs 6,400 crore and under this scheme, poor people are entitled to avail treatment for various health problems including testing and treatment for COVID-19.
It alleged that except Telangana, Delhi, West Bengal and Odisha, all the states in the country are implementing or availing the Ayushman Bharat scheme. This has resulted the denial of health insurance benefit provided by Union of India to the people of four states which is contrary to Article 14 (equality before law) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution, it claimed. It is submitted that all the states in the country irrespective of political parties are utilizing the Central government health scheme to benefit the people but except the states such as Telangana, Delhi, Odisha and West Bengal are not using the well-crafted universal health scheme by the Union of India, it said.
It said that due to non-availability of health insurance and lack of proper facilities in government hospitals, poor and middle class people are forced to pay huge money for treatment of COVID-19 at private hospitals. The plea said that a comprehensive scheme may be framed by the Centre and National Health Authority to provide Ayushman Bharat scheme for desiring and eligible people and those interested may be given the option to avail either this scheme or the local health schemes run by state governments.
Referring to last year data, it said that over 16,000 hospitals, including around 8050 private hospitals, have been empanelled under the Ayushman Bharat scheme across the country and the authority has also fixed the rates for about 1,500 treatment procedures considering the expenses required for treatment and hospitalisation.