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Times of India
1 August 2009
Bangalore, India
By Manu Aiyappa

The fact that their newborn baby boy had congenital heart defects hit Basavaraju and Akkamahadevi, a poor young couple of Chilawadagi village in Koppal district, like a bolt from the blue two months ago. They had almost given up hope of the survival of their little one.

A few doctors they approached told them that surgery could cure the illness but it would cost about Rs 1 lakh. Mobilizing such a huge sum was out of the question for them, as they both worked as daily labourers in the fields for a paltry wage of Rs 50 a day.

But Arogya Suvarna Suraksha, a new medical insurance scheme in the state launched on Friday in Bellary, has come to their rescue. Akkamahadevi’s joy knew no bounds when the local PHC doctor told her that her child would be treated free of cost under the new scheme.

Not just this couple, the scheme will turn out to be a blessing for around 14 lakh other poor and low –income families in Gulbarga division and another 70 lakh families across the state in the next few years, as they will be able to avail of super–specialty treatment and undergo essential and life–saving surgeries totally free of cost.

“This scheme is different from Yashaswini (a scheme launched by the Krishna government) as the poor can avail of super–specialty treatment without paying any insurance premium,” health secretary I R Perumal said.

The scheme would be initially introduced in five districts of Hyderabad–Karnataka, comprising Gulbarga, Koppal, Raichur, Bellary and Bidar, and later it would be extended to the remaining parts of the state to cover over 80 lakh BPL families.

Under the new scheme, poor families will have access to free medical treatment for 440 identified diseases in government hospitals and a network of private hospitals up to a sum of Rs 1.5 lakh.

Unlike Yashaswini, transactions under the new scheme are cashless, as the government would pay Rs 300 on behalf of each BPL family. A sum of Rs 42 crore has been already released for the scheme this year, towards payment of premium and other initial expenditure.

Perumal said the government would require Rs 240 crore a year to implement the scheme across the state.
To run the scheme effectively, the government will set up a trust under the chairmanship of Yeddyurappa, with health minister B Sriramulu as a member along with secretaries of finance, planning, cooperation and health departments. The trust, in consultation with medical experts, would finalise the tie–up with the other hospitals which would function as network hospitals for the scheme.

The selected hospitals will be asked to conduct at least one free medical camp a month, thereby taking advanced evaluation to the doorstep of the patient. Besides, helpdesks manned by ‘Aarogya Mithras’ will be set up in villages to motivate and improve access of BPL families to quality medical care.

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