Unraveling the Impact of the Ayushman Bharat National Health Program

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The biggest healthcare schemes aimed at provide financial protection to vulnerable families and improve access to quality healthcare services in India was launched in September 2018, and named as “Ayushman Bharat Yojana” was one of the biggest healthcare schemes in India. However, despite the government’s ambitious targets, the scheme has failed to achieve its goals.

As on till February 2023 the program covered 22 crore people. The impact was not seen covering majority people. One of the major reasons for the failure of the Ayushman Bharat Yojana is the inadequate budget allocation. The government had initially earmarked Rs. 6,400 crores for the scheme, which was later increased to Rs. 10,000 crores. However, experts argue that this amount is insufficient to cater the healthcare needs of the population. As a result, the scheme has been unable to cover all the intended beneficiaries, leaving millions without access to healthcare. The scheme was framed based on socio-economic and caste status categorized in 2011 census. The program was intended to cover 110 million people.

The lack of infrastructure and trained personnel in many parts of the country. While the scheme aims to provide healthcare services to people in rural areas, the absence of hospitals and medical staff made it difficult to implement the scheme effectively. Moreover, the existing hospitals are often understaffed and lack of skills to handle the influx of patients. This has resulted in long waiting periods and poor quality of care, undermining the very purpose of the scheme.

Inadequate awareness and outreach programs for the scheme. Many people, particularly those in rural areas, are unaware of the scheme’s benefits and eligibility criteria. This has resulted in low enrollment and limited coverage, as many people who could benefit from the scheme do not know that it exists. Furthermore, the lack of information and awareness has resulted in misconceptions and mistrust, further eroding public faith in the scheme.

Moreover, the scheme has been plagued by operational and administrative issues. The implementation of the scheme has been slow, and the claims process has been cumbersome, leading to delays and long waiting periods for patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inadequacies of the healthcare system in India and the failure of Ayushman Bharat Yojana. The pandemic has highlighted the need for a robust healthcare system that can handle crises of such magnitude. However, the healthcare infrastructure in India has been unable to cope with the massive influx of patients, leading to a severe shortage of hospital beds, oxygen, and other essential medical supplies. The scheme has failed to provide the necessary support to the poor and vulnerable population during the pandemic.

Lastly, the scheme’s focus on insurance-based healthcare has also been criticized. The critics argue that the scheme’s emphasis on insurance-based healthcare does little to address the underlying issues in the healthcare system, such as the lack of infrastructure and trained personnel. Moreover, insurance-based healthcare often fails to cover the costs of expensive treatments, leaving patients with significant out-of-pocket expenses.  

In conclusion, the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, while well-intentioned, has failed to achieve its objectives due to a combination of factors, including inadequate budget allocation, lack of infrastructure and personnel, poor awareness and outreach, operational and administrative issues, and an overemphasis on insurance-based healthcare. To ensure the success of the scheme, the government needs to address these issues and implement reforms to strengthen the healthcare system as a whole.

About the Author: Ashish Kumar Thakur is pursuing Masters of Public Health (MPH)

Disclaimer: Views expressed are the author’s own. Edward & Cynthia Institute of Public Health or Yenepoya (Deemed to be University) are not responsible for contents or opinions reflected in this article.

Ashish Kumar Thakur
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