Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorted the Kerala state government to implement its healthcare initiative, Ayushman Bharat. But the state has insisted on correcting the record.
“Kerala is part of Ayushman Bharat scheme,” asserted the state’s Health Minister K. K. Shailaja. “An MoU [memorandum of understanding] was signed on November 2, 2018, and measures have already been taken to ensure that the people of Kerala receive the benefit of the scheme. The first allotment under the scheme has also been sanctioned. It seems the Prime Minister has been misled by someone.”
The source of the confusion is the manner in which Kerala implemented Ayushman Bharat. As opposed to supplanting existing initiatives with the scheme, Kerala in fact incorporated a number of different healthcare schemes including Ayushman Bharat into an integrated health model entitled “Karunaya Arogya Suraksha Scheme”. As such, Shailaja says, “the Kerala government [has] extended its coverage…to 41 lakh families.” It has been pointed out that just 18.5 lakh families in Kerala would have been covered under Ayushman Bharat alone. Thus far, seventeen lakh Keralaites have registered under Ayushman Bharat and 1.46 lakh have availed health benefits.
An MoU between the state government and the Centre has been signed on November 2, 2018, Shailaja said. To this end, the state distributed cards to beneficiaries on March 5 whilst availing Rs 25 crore from the Centre for implementation of the scheme. This did not prevent Modi from falsely – or, as Shailaja suggested, ignorantly – claiming that the “Kerala government has refused to connect with Ayushman Bharat Yojana.” He has been urged to correct the record by Shailaja.
Following the BJP-led victory of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Lok Sabha polls, scaling up Ayushman Bharat has been a priority of the governent when it comes to its health agenda. Dr Harsh Vardhan, upon his appointment as Union Health Minister for the second time, has said implementing the scheme would be his top priority and has cajoled holdout states to rethink and implement the scheme, with mixed results. In Kerala’s case, such attention is clearly misplaced. However, the incident shows that the controversy over the scheme is ongoing.