The Modi Years – Bringing Health Reforms

For a multifarious and culturally complex society of 1.3 billion people, ensuring sustainable healthcare is a mammoth and extremely essential task. For a socio-cultural economy with incredibly young demographic dividend like ours, building a nation wide system of proper caregiving translates into an exceedingly gordian work.

Establishing an ecosystem of well being across the country which resonates with the average civilian standing last in the queue requires the government to invest and indulge heavily in the human capital. “In the history of global economic growth and development, no nation has progressed without investing in human capital. Human capital is typically measured in terms of health and education outcomes.”, writes Shamika Ravi. 

If Bharat were to harness the demographic potential of its 1.3 billion people, majority of them being young (between the age of 15 years and 34 years), making the country healthy is significantly more vital than ever before. Bharat’s working age population is to be largest in around 2035 with 65% of the people capable of making a strong workforce.

It is extremely important for the state to provide affordable and cost effective basic healthcare for the well being of such a large work power. This includes successful warding off of communicable, bacteria based and virus based diseases at this stage and ease down the financial catastrophe of healthcare on household savings of poor and middle class.

This decade and the upcoming decade is perhaps the most significant one for the nation as it will harden the base for Bharat’s economic growth in future. Hence, it’s equally important for the state to ensure proper healthcare in these decades. 

Health, for most of the time in the past, has been a low priority issue for the governments. Despite its incredible significance health sector was largely neglected by almost every precursory regimes. There were grave times when country was facing severe health problems which coupled with costly healthcare caused severe dent on financial conditions of common man.

But still healthcare failed to be resonated into the mainstream politics of the nation for decades. Health has, for most of the time, been a low policy priority for electoral movements in the country for the parties. But, at the same time, it was not same for the people as large survey, carried out by the Association for Democratic Reforms, showed that healthcare was the second most important issue, after jobs, for the voters.

In this election, PM Modi succeeded in making healthcare a big political priority subject by the announcement of Ayushmaan Bharat Yojana. Modi understood the demands of common people and his reforms resonated with the masses. 

Here Hindupost looks into the Healthcare reforms brought in by Narendra Modi’s previous NDA government. 

PM Modi’s flagship and most prudent and crucial health reform was, undoubtedly, the Ayushman Bharat Yojana or Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY). Modi care, as it is called, is a significant step towards attaining universal health coverage in Bharat.

“If Modi care is implemented well, it would be the most needed ‘social safety net’ for healthcare as treatment of non-communicable diseases is long-term and tertiary care is expensive. Volumes and better-managed reimbursements to private providers will be motivating for price reductions and scaling up operations. This would be as close as Bharat can get to universal health coverage,” said Usha Manjunath, director, Institute of Health Management and Research.

Ayushman Bharat was launched by the government on 23rd September, 2018 with an aim to provide basic health cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year for ‘secondary and tertiary hospitalisation’ to around 10.74 crore poor and vulnerable families of the country which translates into approximately 50 crore beneficiaries. This is a humongous step towards ensuring health coverage for the poor of the country.

The scheme allows beneficiaries from one state to take treatment up to Rs 5 lakh per year for free in both public and private hospitals (registered with the scheme) ‘anywhere in the country’. As of February this year the number of hospitals empaneled under PMJAY is 14,440. Out of these, 7118 are public hospitals. The number of beneficiaries hospitalised under PMJAY are 10,59,693 informed the government. 

Another significant aspect of the Modi care scheme is construction of 150,000 wellness centres across the country, which would be the first centre of contact for citizens to access the public health infrastructure in the country. Primary and basic healthcare centres like these are instrumental in enhancing the primary healthcare capacity in Bharat, a necessary condition for any healthy nation.

The government has allotted Ayushman Bharat with Rs 6,400 crore in the 2019 budget. And many people have already availed benefit from the scheme. The National Health Authority says that more than 2.74 crore beneficiaries have been enrolled and more than 17 lakh people have received healthcare under the scheme till March, 2019 since its launch in September 2018. 

One more major achievement of the government has been the Mission Indradhanush. It is a national immunisation programme aimed at strengthening, re-energising and achieving full immunisation coverage for all children and pregnant women throughout the country at a rapid pace.

“Earlier the increase in full immunisation coverage was 1% per year which has increased to 6.7% per year through the first two phases of Mission Indradhanush. Four phases of Mission Indradhanush have been conducted till August 2017 and more than 2.53 crore children and 68 lakh pregnant women have been vaccinated.”, informs the National Health Portal. The Government identified and especially focused on 201 districts across 28 states in the country that had the highest number of partially immunised and unimmunised children. 

The government has also bought in December 2017 the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017. The bill aims to replace the Bharatiya Medical Council Act of 1956 to regulate medical education and regulation. Meanwhile, the government has promulgated the Bharatiya Medical Council (Amendment) Ordinance to dissolve the Medical Council of Bharat (MCI) and to run it through a panel of board of governors made up of eminent professionals.

The government along with new body for regulations in health education policy, set up loads of new medical institutions to strengthen the nation’s health infrastructure. In the first tenure, NDA government announced establishing of 16 new AIIMS. 

NDA under Modi has also focused on reviving the traditional ancient knowledge and medical wisdom of our society through targeted schemes and programmes aimed at supporting AAYUSH sector. The government bought in a new ministry of AAYUSH and also pushed forward Jan Aushadhi or generic drug store launches with around 5,000 Jan Aushadhi stores offering 800 plus medicines.

The target has been raised now to open around 2,500 more stores by 2020. In addition to such efforts, the government has brilliantly used the modern ways of promotions to bring ancient ways of caregiving into the mainstream. 

The government under PM Modi has done amply good in the field. Under this regime, Bharat’s maternal mortality rate (MMR) has dropped by 22%, to 130 (per lakh of live births). The WHO called Bharat’s decline in MMR “groundbreaking”. The Sustainable Development Goal target for MMR is 70, by 2030.

Bharat believes it will achieve this target by 2022 and not by 2030. Odisha has also seen a significant drop in malaria, improving Bharat’s overall score on malaria and bringing Bharat up many places on the global scale also. The WHO said, “only Bharat showed progress in reducing its disease burden.”

In February 2017, the government capped the prices of bare metal stents at Rs 7,260 and drug-eluting and biodegradable stents at Rs 29,600, which was almost 85% lower than the prevailing market prices. It also provided free medicines through Jan Aushadhi Kendras.

Health sector has also witnessed rise in the budget allocation under Modi’s rule. The overall allocation to health sector, witnessing a significant rise, accelerated to Rs 61,398 crores in the Interim Budget for 2019-20. Apart from large scale major tectonic reforms as Ayushman Bharat and Mission Indradhanush, Modi has also focused on enhancing the minor small scale aspects of healthcare in Bharat. Government has done prudent work in improving the caregiving process of nation. 

Health sector, as other human capital sectors, is of paramount significance for the country. As Shamika Ravi says “given the tremendous potential of job creation and wealth creation, the healthcare sector can become the engine of Bharat’s future growth. It has the potential to be a significant job creator across the value chain of caregiving”.

Modi understands the significance to most extent and has done tremendous work in that direction that is, undoubtedly, unparalleled by his predecessors . But all this is still not enough as there are still major loopholes in the establishment and sectors requires reforms capable of causing paradigm shift.


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About the Author

Yogendra Thakur
A student and two time state topper in Astrophysics and Art of Lecturing. Primary focus areas are Indology and Economics.