Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik. (File Photo| EPS)
Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik. (File Photo| EPS)

Odisha health plan a step in right direction

One, it allows every citizen to avail free treatment in all government healthcare institutions—from primary health centres to medical colleges and hospitals.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday announced his government’s landmark decision to cover 3.3 crore of the state’s population under its flagship Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY). BSKY comes in two components. One, it allows every citizen to avail free treatment in all government healthcare institutions—from primary health centres to medical colleges and hospitals. Two, it enables a staggering 92.5 lakh beneficiary families to avail critical health coverage in over 183 private hospitals in Odisha and another 17 outside of it. To make it seamless, Naveen announced a smart chip-based card for cashless transactions. Male members can get coverage up to `5 lakh while women are entitled to double.

Over 1.8 crore smart cards will be issued in the days to come. BSKY was first launched in 2015; the one unveiled on Independence Day is its renewed version and billed as a first of its kind in terms of ease of usage. Importantly, the declaration comes ahead of two critical polls the 21-year-old BJD government will face before the 2024 general elections. Hence, the decision to bring all National Food Security Act (NFSA) and State Food Security Scheme (SFSS) card-holders under ambit of the health-for-all scheme makes sense for the regional party.

In the past, BSKY as a blanket health assurance scheme has had its run-in with the Centre as Odisha is among a handful of states that has resisted the Modi government’s ambitious Ayushman Bharat Yojana and instead focused on its own scheme. There will come, in days ahead, more such instances when politics takes centre-stage and issues over beneficiary selection will be questioned. But good governance can make politics look sensible and smart. Six years ago, Naveen rolled out BSKY to address the impact of out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure on healthcare in poor and economically weaker sections. The Economic Survey 2020-21 too had flagged that India needs to slash its OOP from 65% to 35% of the overall health spending.

In a state like Odisha, the spending is in the 70% mark. Post-Covid, the expenditure is more than likely to balloon. A recent SBI Ecowrap report pointed out that health expenditure could jump by 11% in the family consumption budget. In such a scenario, Naveen’s plan seems to be a step in the right direction.

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The New Indian Express
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