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Harsh Vardhan rejects IMA demand of taking govt hospitals out of Ayushman Bharat

The idea of excluding government hospitals from the ambit of Ayushman Bharat is absolutely absurd and needs to be rejected: Health minister

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Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan rejected on Monday the IMA’s demand of taking government hospitals out of the ambit of health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat, saying the statement by the doctors’ body lacks “any basis or vision”.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had said on Sunday that government hospitals should be removed from the ambit of the Narendra Modi government’s ambitious Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (AB-PMJAY) as services there are already free and if the government wants to fund public health establishments, they should do it directly.

Reacting to it, Vardhan said the scheme is for more than 50 crore people, many of whom reside in far-flung villages and tribal areas of the country where there are no private hospitals.

“They need to have access to quality healthcare whether provided by the government or the private sector. It is the government hospitals which provide healthcare services in the remotest areas of the country which have no private hospitals. Even the new medical colleges will be set up in the aspirational districts,” the minister said. “The idea of excluding government hospitals from the ambit of Ayushman Bharat is absolutely absurd and needs to be rejected,” he added.

IMA’s National President Santanu Sen said on Sunday that if the government wants to fund public hospitals they should do so directly.

“Why should it be done through insurance companies by paying 15% to them,” he said while demanding that the AB-PMJAY be restricted to the private sector. There is no additional benefit accruing to people by including government hospitals in AB-PMJAY as services in public hospitals are free already,” Sen said.

The IMA also opposed the current structure and mode of implementation of AB-PMJAY, alleging that the insurance model of healthcare delivery is a failed one.

India should not continue the insurance route for healthcare delivery as the administrative cost and the “unholy nexus” with insurance companies point towards profit maximization rather than quality health care delivery, an IMA member said.

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