New Delhi, Feb 2: National Health Protection Scheme, touted to be world’s biggest healthcare scheme, announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech, is likely to be launched on August 15 or October 2. The scheme, intended to provide health insurance cover to 50 crore Indians or 10 crore families, will give cover of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. Jaitley had added that long-term tax gains will be sufficient to fund the ambitious scheme. [Also read: Long-Term Capital Gains Taxation Can Alone Fund National Health Protection Scheme: FM]

Jaitley also added that government will set up 24 new government medical colleges and hospitals by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country.

“We will launch a flagship National Health Protection Scheme to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. This will be the world’s largest government funded health care programme. Adequate funds will be provided for smooth implementation of this programme,” Arun Jaitley had said while presenting the Union Budget 2018-19. [Also read: Union Budget 2018: Health Care For 50 Crore People, Gain For Farmers: Key Points]

He also added that National Health Policy 2017 envisioned health and wellness centres to be the foundation of India’s health system. Allocating Rs 1,200 crore for the National Health Policy, Jaitley said that it would go towards 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres to bring health care closer to the homes of people. [Also read: Union Budget Lays A Strong Foundation For New India, Says PM Narendra Modi in His Statement]

“These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for noncommunicable diseases and maternal and child health services. “These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. I am committing Rs 1,200 crore in this budget for this flagship programme. I also invite contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres,” he said.

‘Scheme Just a Jumla’

Raising questions over the proposed mega healthcare scheme, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram described it as just a ‘jumla’ initiative by the Modi government. The veteran Congress leader that the BJP government was not serious about the scheme as it has not allocated any money for the scheme in the budget.

“Yesterday, I had said that the new health care scheme is a ‘jumla’ (mere claim) with no money provided in the budget. Today, (the Finance Minister) has admitted that no money has been provided and he will ‘raise money in the future’. Perfect jumla,” Chidambaram tweeted.

“Scheme without money is like flying a kite without a string. The kite flyer will say that the kite is flying, but there will be no kite and nothing will be flying,” Chidambaram went on to add.