Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday said the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s Ayushman Bharat scheme targeted only some healthcare matters and was a handout to rich businessmen.
“My main criticism of Ayushman Bharat is, it gives insurance without a proper support structure from hospitals and medical professionals,” Gandhi told healthcare professionals at a hotel in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur. It is a “limited scheme that is targeting very limited number of healthcare issues”, he added. “It’s handout to the 15 to 20 richest businessmen in India. That’s not the type of scheme we’re going to run. You need public expenditure in healthcare and education.”
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, which is the health insurance programme under Ayushman Bharat, was launched in September. It aims to provide health insurance cover of upto Rs 5 lakh to 500 million poor families. But some states such as West Bengal, Telangana, Odisha and Delhi have not adopted the scheme.
“Healthcare is, in a sense, a foundation. So, we have to ensure that foundation is built firmly,” he said. If the Congress comes to power in 2019, it will “dramatically increase the amount of money” that is put into the healthcare and education sectors, Gandhi said. “We won’t allow limited number of people to make a massive amount of money,” he said, adding that that is how he sees the Ayushman Bharat scheme.
He claimed that though there was a role for “private institutions, big businesses, insurance and even private providers of healthcare”, the foundation of the sector has to be of the government and the public sector, and not fully privatised, he added. “India is transitioning from a rural system to urban system,” Gandhi added. “There is a massive shift that is taking place. It is not an easy shift, it is a traumatic shift.”
The Congress may include a Right to Healthcare Act in its manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi added. “In our manifesto, we are considering a Right to Healthcare Act, where we guarantee certain minimum healthcare to all Indians, increasing our expenditure to about 3% of GDP and increasing the number of healthcare professionals,” he said.
Gandhi also said the government expenditure on healthcare will be doubled between 2019 and 2024 to 3% of Gross Domestic Product if the Congress comes to power. Gandhi promised more medical colleges, scholarships and loans to medical students to ensure more number of doctors.