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Southern States Ahead in Extending Free Healthcare Under PM’s Flagship Scheme

Representational image.

Representational image.

As many as 75% of the sanctioned Ayushman Bharat amount was availed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh lag despite high Covid-19 cases.

Amid the distressful times of Covid-19 since March 2020, southern States have outclassed some of their counterparts from the Hindi belt is offering free of cost health services, revealed response to an RTI query.

RTI activist Vivek Pandey, who is drawing information in the health sector for some time with the help of the Right to Information Act, had applied with the National Health Authority seeking details of the free treatment offered to the Covid-19 patients from March 2020 to May 2021.

The response received by the applicant a few days ago reveals that the southern States such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka remained way ahead of their North Indian counterparts when it came to extending Ayushman Bharat yojana benefits to eligible beneficiaries during Covid-19 times, a flagship scheme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the universal healthcare.

Even state like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which were badly impacted by the virus, especially in the second wave fared poorly in extending free healthcare during the period.

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A total of Rs 2,223.57 crore amount was sanctioned under the scheme against the sanctioned 23.78 lakh admissions including 17.73 lakh testing and 6.05 lakh treatment by June first week 2021, said the reply.

As many as 75% of the sanctioned amount (Rs 1,680 crore) was availed by the southern States.

Karnataka provided treatment to over 1.62 lakh people under this scheme spending over Rs 770 crore. Karnataka also has spent the highest amount under the scheme for providing free treatment and tests.

Andhra Pradesh stood second among the States in giving treatment to over 1.54 lakh people after spending over ₹413 crore under Ayushman Yojana. Bihar has spent only Rs 3 lakh for providing free treatment to 19 beneficiaries, while Uttar Pradesh spent Rs 1.51 crore for the testing and treatment of 1,538 and 875 people, respectively.

Madhya Pradesh spent Rs 34.39 crore on the treatment of 18,309 persons and testing of 1,656 persons in all. Besides, Chhattisgarh which was battered by the second wave of late, too fared low in this parameter but is ahead of Madhya Pradesh as the tribal-dominated State spent Rs 41.85 crore on the testing and treatment of 1,044 and 38,179 persons.

Neighbouring Rajasthan also was seen at the bottom of this list as the State spent Rs 8.66 crore in free treatment and testing of 17,336 persons under the scheme.

Andhra Pradesh (Rs 413cr), Karnataka (Rs 770 cr) and Maharashtra (Rs 424 cr) availed most of the free healthcare benefits and the rest of the States fared poorly on this.

Vivek Pandey, the RTI activist commenting on the data said, during the second wave Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were badly affected from Covid-19. Despite this, the governments failed to provide benefits to people. They now need to find out the main cause why they failed to implement the scheme, as southern States performed very well.

Amulya Nidhi, an Indore-based senior health activist, said that the findings clearly indicate that most of the States don’t wish to extend the benefits of the Ayushman scheme to beneficiaries. In MP, the State introduced Ayushman benefits in May first week and before this, it was a free run for private hospitals who charged money at will, said Nidhi. “If the total amount spent in MP is as low as mentioned in the reply (Rs 34.39 crore), there should be a probe about the role of seven medical colleges which were empanelled in the Ayushman scheme last year and this year as well apart from private institutions, said the activist expressing the surprise over the low amount spent on the free Covid-19 treatment.

BJP spokesperson Dr Hitesh Vajpayee speaking to News18.com said that commenting on findings is only possible when the entire data is available, adding large numbers of details are also to be uploaded on the Centre’s system. He, however, added that the State government based on yearly experiences is constantly improving the Ayushman scheme for extending healthcare to the commoners. But the private sector being an important stakeholder in health needs more accountability and the state was constantly working for overcoming these challenges, added Dr Vajpayee. Still, there is a large room for improvement in the scheme, agreed Dr Vajpayee, adding that evaluating this vast scheme only based on mere Covid-19 treatment won’t be fair.

Akash Tripathi, the Health Commissioner of Madhya Pradesh, could not be reached for comments on the matter.

Madhya Pradesh’s data on Covid-19

From March 2020 to June 18, 2021, MP reported a total of over 7.89 total cases of Covid-19 infections, of which 7.77 lakh have recovered from the disease. Officially the State recorded over 8,000 deaths while independent bodies claim that the death toll is much higher than this number.

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first published:June 19, 2021, 19:35 IST