BJP Old promises, new accents

By Manzoor-ul-Hassan
Having already implemented the Ayushman Bharat scheme before, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did precious little except reiterate its commitment to reducing the burden of healthcare expenditure of all citizens and push the frontiers of telemedicine to improve access of services.
The manifesto says that the party “is committed to leveraging all resources to ensure that the out-of-pocket expenditure on health is reduced and all citizens can avail necessary medical services.” The party has repeated its promise of opening 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres in the country by 2022. There is no significant announcement or promise made in the document regarding Ayushman Bharat except a high-sounding statement that 17,150 centres have become functional in the country so far and they want to take it “to the next level.” The party has promised to start telemedicine and diagnostic laboratory facilities at these centres by 2022.
The BJP says it will open seventy-five new medical colleges in the country by 2024 through public and private participation. The institutes will be opened in every district to double the number of doctors in the country in a transparent manner. It also claims to have increased the number of MBBS seats by 18,000 and postgraduate medical seats by 12,000.  But it doesn’t clarify how it will balance quantity with quality inputs. Or ensure standardisation. There are some vague promises on immunisation, nutrition and tuberculosis. The BJP has repeated its promise of eliminating TB by 2025. India figures high in the TB burden as more than three lakh people die every year due to the disease.
We found the sweeping announcement of converting the National Nutrition Mission a “mass movement” and ensure “full immunisation coverage for all the children and pregnant women” by 2022 interesting. But there was no details. Another interesting mention was the cap on prices of medical devices, the party claiming it will ensure accessibility and affordability of drugs and medical devices to masses through a separate pricing policy.
Dr Bhanu Duggal, HoD, Cardiology, at AIIMS Rishikesh said the reiteration of the commitment of Ayushman Bharat is a positive development as the annual health cover of Rs 5 lakh to 10.74 crore poor families will ensure early diagnosis of diseases. “Through telemedicine, we will provide expert opinion to the doctors in PHCs. This will also ensure timely referrals and avoid unnecessary burdening of tertiary care centres,” he said.
Dr Duggal said the recent study done by AIIMS Rishikesh also pointed out how insurance and price care give access to the poorest of the poor.
The study was about the increasing use of DES among low-income patients after price reduction strategy in healthcare.
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