New Delhi: Sixty-year-old Jumma, a construction worker in Haryana’s Jhajjar, is recuperating after a heart surgery at a high-end private hospital in Gurugram. Jumma and his family, who otherwise could not afford the cost of treatment, are experiencing such comfort for the first time in their lives.

Similarly, Mustafa Khan of Dehradun, who had to depend on his three daughters and their in-laws for his treatment, is now “independent”. Khan is now undergoing treatment at a hospital in Dehradun, with his expenses being borne by the government under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), also known as the Ayushman Bharat Yojana.

Another such beneficiary of the scheme is 13-year-old Simran, a diabetic patient in Sihor in Himachal Pradesh. Her father, a farmer, struggled to meet her treatment cost of Rs 5,000 a month. However, PMJAY has come as a boon for the family. Not only have they been able to save on medical expenses, but are using the savings for the education of their girl child.

These are some of the lakhs of beneficiaries of Narendra Modi government’s flagship PMJAY, or Ayushman Bharat Yojana, which was rolled out by the government as the world’s biggest health insurance scheme benefitting nearly 50 crore people in the country. Launched in September last year, the project was also being seen as the biggest tool to woo a large section of voters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Through a ground study on the implementation of PMJAY, the Public Policy Research Centre, a Bharatiya Janata Party think tank, has found that not only has this helped the beneficiaries financially, but has also brought healthcare services to national focus and provided unprecedented accessibility and quality service to all.

The think tank conducted research in eight districts across four states—Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand from November last year till January this year.

BJP vice president, Dr Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said: “The study team noticed a trend where people covered under the Ayushman Bharat scheme were pro-actively getting treatment for their lingering chronic diseases, which was further taking the nation on a healthcare course. Another important aspect that comes to light is the role of the private sector under the scheme, as a majority of people are preferring private hospitals for their treatment.”

The think tank has recommended a slew of measures to the government to make PMJAY more accessible to the people. It has suggested bringing volunteers appointed to assist patients as part of PMJAY, on government payroll to fix direct accountability.

Following the assessment of the first phase of PMJAY, the BJP has suggested that instead of reporting to individual hospitals, the scheme could be brought under the purview of the national health agency to fix their responsibility.

The other recommendations given by the report include considering making an Ayushman council, which would be on the lines of the GST Council to improve coordination between the beneficiaries and the government.

The recommendations have been submitted to the NITI Aayog.

The team, which led the study, interviewed over 600 patients, relatives and other stakeholders, including government stakeholders, grassroots workers-ASHA workers, pharmacists and common service centres, among others.

The report claims that interviews of beneficiaries reveal that people are tending to healthcare problems on priority; they are departing from the common practice of overlooking or putting off visits to the doctor due to financial concerns, leading to a worsening of illnesses.

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