BHUBANESWAR: The Union Government’s move to make Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) scheme optional and open the vital sector to health insurance products has met with stiff opposition from the ESI Corporation employees.
The employees have termed the decision against national interest, which will have serious repercussions for more than 7.5 crore beneficiaries who have been provided the unique and most comprehensive health security under the scheme.
While the Union Labour and Employment Ministry on Tuesday held a meeting to discuss the proposal to make ESI optional by amending the Act, the employees on the call of All India ESIC Employees’ Federation registered their protest by wearing black badges. They have warned of intensifying agitation against any move to dilute the ESI Act.
“The move is solely intended to offer business to private insurance companies at the cost of social security for low-paid working class of the country. It will have far-reaching consequences,” general secretary, ESIC Employees’ Union (ESICEU), Odisha Region, SB Das said.
In Odisha, the medical scheme is directly administered to more than 12 lakh beneficiaries. The ESIC has four hospitals and 46 dispensaries while top multi-super speciality hospitals have been empanelled for providing advanced health services to beneficiaries.
The workers are accorded the most comprehensive health security benefits without any upper limit on expenses or any condition on treatment modalities by contributing a nominal 1.75 per cent of their wages along with 4.75 per cent by employers. The cover includes cash benefits during sickness, maternity, disablement, death and unemployment as also maternity.
“It is known that no health insurance company product can match ESIC which stands tall not only in India but also across the world. They cannot provide the extent of services and cover as ESIC. But they can mislead employees and employers with tall promises and play havoc with their lives,” ESICEU president RK Dutta forewarned.
The ESIC is solely dependant on the contributions by employees and employer organisations. The private health insurance companies are pressurising the Government to get these funds diverted to them. If contributions fall, it will impact the Corporation and derail the system, Dutta said.