The Centre has decided to launch a flagship National Health Protection Scheme under which up to Rs five lakh will be provided to families every year for secondary and tertiary healthcare. The announcement was made by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his Budget 2018 presentation in Parliament on Thursday.

Under the National Health Protection Scheme, the initiative will cover 10 crore vulnerable and poor families – around 50 crore beneficiaries, Jaitley said.

The finance minister announced two initiatives under the Ayushman Bharat programme for which Rs 1,200 crore will be allocated. Jaitley claimed this scheme will be the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme.

Under the National Health Policy 2017, the Centre announced an allocation of Rs 1,200 crore for 1.5 lakh centres to provide comprehensive diagnostic services which will provide free and essential drugs and diagnosis, he said.

Jaitley said India needs path-breaking interventions to address health holistically in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare systems. “The government is progressing towards the goal of universal health coverage,” Jaitley said. “We intend to take healthcare to a new aspirational level.”

Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah said Ayushman Bharat was an “unparalleled initiative” to ensure health insurance. “Protecting 10 crore families i.e about 40% of India’s population with a health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per family is a global first!” he said on Twitter.