1. Budget 2024: Hike in insurance cover under Ayushman Bharat expected, here’s what we know

Budget 2024: Hike in insurance cover under Ayushman Bharat expected, here’s what we know

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3 min read • Updated: January 23, 2024, 1:47 PM

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Summary

Ayushman Bharat has been a boon for 55 crore individuals or 12 crore families, as of December 2023. Notably, in 2023 alone, about 9.38 crore Ayushman Cards were issued.

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Ayushman Bharat was launched in 2018.

It seems that the government is gearing up for a shift in its flagship health scheme, Ayushman Bharat in the upcoming Union Budget. With just over a week left for the Interim Budget for 2024-25, speculations are rife that the insurance cover under Ayushman Bharat will potentially be doubled. If this materialises, it could increase health protection for families across the nation.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Interim Budget on February 1, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The full Budget is expected to be presented in July by the new government that would take over after the general elections. Let's check the details of this potential proposal and understand why it is important for all, especially those belonging to weaker sections.

Ayushman Bharat Scheme

Built on the principles of the National Health Policy 2017, the Ayushman Bharat was launched in 2018. It has been a cornerstone in the Indian healthcare landscape. The scheme's hallmark, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), stands as the world's largest health assurance initiative. The primary goal of the scheme is to ensure universal health coverage.

Ayushman Bharat has been a boon for 55 crore individuals or 12 crore families, as of December 2023. Notably, in 2023 alone, about 9.38 crore Ayushman Cards were issued.

Presently, the scheme offers ₹5 lakh annually per family for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. The government is likely to increase the limit to ₹10 lakh per family per year. The possible extension is expected to bring critical conditions like cancer and transplants in its range, keeping in view the growing financial burden associated with these medical conditions.

What is expected in the Interim Budget?

Besides increasing the coverage; the scope of the scheme could also be extended to include up to 100 crore beneficiaries, two times the existing number. The benefits may also extend to Kisan Samman Nidhi recipients, construction workers, non-coal mine workers, and ASHA workers over the next three years, according to reports. The scale of this undertaking highlights the government's commitment to making healthcare accessible to every social stratum.

For such a large scale overhaul, a significant financial commitment is necessary. To achieve this, an estimated additional allocation of ₹12,076 crore per annum will be required.

With the current budget allocated for Ayushman Bharat PMJAY at ₹7,200 crore for FY24, it is likely that this figure could potentially double to around ₹15,000 crore by the financial year 2025.

Towards a healthier nation

In a nutshell, the potential extension of insurance cover under Ayushman Bharat could be a major step towards India's healthcare framework. The government's recognition of the evolving healthcare needs of its citizens reflects a commitment to a healthier India – mentally, financially and physically.

Needless to say, public sentiment appears largely positive ahead of the Interim Budget. Many are pinning their hopes on the possible extension of the healthcare insurance coverage for improved healthcare accessibility.

Nonetheless, concerns about the fiscal implications are also lingering in the background. Whether the government can achieve an efficient implementation is yet to be seen. If this materialises, Ayushman Bharat could pave the way for a healthier, more resilient India in the years to come.