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Disappearing Promise?

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Uttarakhand’s enhanced version of the Ayushman Bharat Scheme claimed to cover every family in the state, irrespective of their financial status. It was a bold move that could have, over time and with proper implementation, radically influenced the quality of life in the state. However, for reasons not yet clear, the government now seems to be quietly ratcheting back on the Atal Ayushman Yojana. According to information provided on the scheme’s website, there are several ways that a family can obtain a ‘Golden Card’ that provides Rs 5 lakh medical coverage per year, but the story presently at the Common Service Centres where the registration is supposed to be done is different. According to several accounts, people are being told that those with the new ration cards alone are eligible for the benefits. On the other hand, when those with such cards do seek registration, they are being fobbed off with strange excuses such as ‘it is only for the very ill, not those in good health’.
What can be the reasons for this? Was the announcement of the scheme a mere ploy to obtain votes in the ongoing elections? Now that votes have been cast, is government reneging on the deal? If this is the case, what faith can be put in any of its announcements, including the one about zero tolerance towards corruption? Or, have the private insurance companies and hospitals managed to ‘convince’ those in power about the ‘shortcomings’ of the scheme? Is officialdom sabotaging the scheme for reasons of its own? Is the Chief Minister even aware of what is going on?
No one was expecting that the implementation of this unique scheme would be easy. There have been glitches because, as always, the corrupt can turn anything into a money making proposition. Empanelled hospitals are unhappy with the rates fixed under the scheme. People have not been clear about the rules. Many patients have been turned away; some have even died as a result. But this was to be expected. The focus needed to be on the implementation, with the cooperation of all concerned.
There are concerns about the cost of the scheme and if the state can afford it. If strictly implemented and with commitment, it can prove viable, particularly as its impact on the GDP would be excellent in the long term. Medical facilities would come up in the poorer localities, as the economic status in the catchment area would not be an inhibiting factor. Unfortunately, there seem to be other concerns and the promise seems to be disappearing with each passing day.