As Ayushman Bharat nears the one-year anniversary of its launch, the Telangana state government shows no signs of implementing the Central scheme in the state.
In the recently unveiled state budget for the 2019-20 fiscal period, Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao said it would focus on its own state-level healthcare scheme, Aarogya Sri, which administers medical treatment free of cost to families below the poverty line in empanelled government-run and private hospitals. As such, it will forego implementing the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), or Ayushman Bharat, as the Chief Minister claims fewer citizens would benefit from the scheme in the state as opposed to Aarogya Sri.
“Since Aarogya Sri is far more beneficial than Ayushman Bharat in several ways, we decided not to implement the Central scheme,” Rao said. “Let me make it clear that the state government will examine thoroughly all the Central schemes and will implement schemes that are beneficial to people.”
“The state government is not interested in wasting public money on programmes which are not beneficial to people,” Rao added. “For instance, the State government has implemented Aarogya Sri to extend medical and health services to the poor. The government is spending Rs 1,336 crore per annum on Aarogya Sri, benefitting 85.34 lakh families in the State.” Chief Minister Rao said Ayushman Bharat would enable the state to benefit just 26 lakh families in the state.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the state’s ruling party, had earlier ruled out implementation of Ayushman Bharat in Telangana. “Aarogyasri is the best scheme in the country,” said Dr Palla Rajeshwar Reddy, the state government Whip in Council. He claimed that 75 percent of people in Telangana were covered under Aarogya Sri, whereas Ayushman Bharat would cover just 25 percent of the state’s population.
Earlier this year, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan exhorted holdout state governments to implement Ayushman Bharat, including Telangana. States including Delhi and Odisha are among those where Ayushman Bharat has yet to be put in place.