IMA signs pact with Centre to back health protection scheme

After being at loggerheads for several months and criticising the government’s National Health Protection Scheme, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has come around to partnering with the government. On Thursday, the IMA announced the signing of an agreement with the government after three hours of negotiations.

IMA’s president Dr. Ravi Wankhedkar toldThe Hinduthat the decision to support the scheme, also called Ayushman Bharat or Modi Care, was made after the government accepted many of their demands. “Package rates are still an issue. However, they have formed a committee with two IMA members on it to review and rework the package rates. Therefore, we decided to extend our support,” said Dr. Wankhedkar. The IMA is the country’s largest group of doctors, with over 2.5 lakh members. Early this month, it had boycotted the scheme and said it needs to be re-conceived.

“But now, they have agreed to empanel hospitals with a minimum of 10 beds. Certification with the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Health care Providers is not mandatory any more but those who have it will earn 10% to 15% more. Hospitals in backward areas will also get 10% more,” said Dr. Wankhedkar.

The decision has not gone down well with many IMA members, though. “Some members still feel the core committee should have not partnered with the Centre. But except for the package rates, the Centre agreed to other points raised by the IMA and thus, the committee thought it was better to be a part of the system and raise issues if any,” said a doctor.

The scheme, which may be unveiled on August 15, offers 1,350 packages for a range of diseases and covers each family for Rs. 5 lakh annually. At present, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have their own health insurance schemes. Maharashtra, for example, offers a coverage of Rs. 1.5 lakh to the underprivileged. Besides overlapping with the existing scheme, the new scheme will mostly be dependent on public sector hospitals as the private sector is likely to stay out due to the low package rates.

The Chief Minister is yet to sign the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Centre. Sources say States like Maharashtra that have existing schemes are reluctant to sign the MoU. To start with, Modi Care may be rolled out only in 10 States.

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