Funding not a problem for ‘Modicare’, says Arun Jaitley

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Finding budgetary allocation to fund the ambitious National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), also known as Modicare, will not be a problem, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told News18 Network in an exclusive interview.

“I have left a lot of leverage for additional budget measures in this budget, from a budget of Rs 24-25 lakh crore to take out Rs 10,000 crore isn’t a big deal,” Jaitley said. “I have given a provision of Rs 2,000 crore for the scheme to kickstart, but once if more is required, then we definitely will give that from the budget.”

The finance minister said he will be able meet the funding requirement through the 1 percent increase in education cess on income tax, which was imposed to garner an additional Rs 11,000 crore, and the newly re-imposed long term capital gains tax, which is expected to bring another Rs 20,000 crore to the government’s coffers.

The NHPS aims to provide 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, constituting 40 percent of India’s population, with Rs 5 lakh health insurance cover to avail secondary and tertiary care.

The government estimates the premium outgo to cost anywhere between Rs 11,000-12,000 crore. However, the allocation made in the budget was just Rs 2,000 crore, which seemed a paltry sum for a scheme of this size, thereby pushing the Opposition to call this yet another ‘Jumla’ or an empty promise of the Modi government.

Jaitley also dismissed skeptics who expressed doubts on the government’s ability to pull-off the implementation of a programme of such magnitude, given its past experience with poor execution of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a similar below poverty line health insurance scheme on a much smaller scale.

“Today, this country has 25 crore families. The country has the entire socio economic data. Out of 25 crore, the lower 10 crore, which is 40 percent, these can be arithmetically removed and now through the means of Aadhaar and digital methods, these people can be directly contacted,” Jaitley said.

“It is not necessary that every family will need to visit the hospital every year. Earlier, whenever the poor went to the government hospital and was not treated, then in that case he or she waited for god to decide the fate of their lives, so now if we give the insurance card to this category of the poor and if our insurance scheme works out, then the premium will be given by the government in fact the volume will be so high that the per capita insurance is generally less,” the finance minister added.

Jaitley said that NHPS will improve healthcare access and bring massive private healthcare investments to rural and semi-urban areas.

“Today, the hospitals of this country are getting built around tier 1 and tier 2 cities. To take these hospitals to the rural cities and districts is how the people of this country will be able to flourish,” he saidmoneycontrol