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Times of India
24 May 2011
By Umesh Isalkar
Pune, India

RSBY Is Centre’s Scheme For Providing Health Cover To BPL Families
Rashtriya swasthya bima yojana
Scheme for Poor now With Health Dept
The poor coverage of economically weaker citizens under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) in Maharashtra has forced the Union government to take away the responsibility of its implementation from the labour department and entrust the task to the state health department.

The RSBY was the Union government’s scheme for providing basic health cover to BPL families. Speaking to TOI, Jayant Kumar Banthia, additional chief secretary of state health department, said, "A few days ago, we received a letter from the central government directing the state health department to take the reins for effective implementation of the scheme in Maharashtra."

Asked about the poor coverage of BPL families under the scheme, Banthia said, "I cannot comment on the coverage as implementing the RSBY scheme is, at present, the task of the labour department. I can only say that the central government has asked us to take the scheme under the health department’s wings, which, the Union government thinks, will implement it effectively. The state government will soon take a final call on this."

As per a state report, 42.8% below poverty line (BPL) citizens have been enrolled in the scheme launched across the country in 2008. Health activists, who do the rounds of rural areas, contest these figures and say that not more than 10%–20% of the total BPL families benefit from the scheme.

There are 35.69 lakh eligible BPL families in the state, of this, 15.28 lakh have enrolled under RSBY as of September 2010, the report states. Many families are plunged into poverty because they run up high healthcare costs.

"It translates into 42.8% families receiving benefits of health insurance under the scheme that insures families for healthcare costs up to Rs 30,000 per year," said the report, The Health Status 2010, prepared by State Health Systems Resource Centre, state health services.

"The coverage is better in Sindhudurg and Latur, and poor in Nagpur (hardly 1%). Similarly, the coverage in Jalgaon and Thane districts –13.6% and 18.6% respectively – is also low," the report said.

Beneficiaries get biometric smart cards and poor families can use healthcare services from a list of hospitals, including private facilities. The scheme is dear to the UPA government and has been hailed by the World Bank and the United Nations as one of the best health insurance schemes.

Times View
Tbelow hirty–five the lakh poverty families line in live Maharashtra and not even half that number has been reached by the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. This came out in a health department report. To meet the state's target of 100 per cent coverage of all BPL families by March 2013, the health department should form a task force to effectively implement and monitor the health insurance scheme.

The state also needs to widely publicise it and undertake special enrolment campaigns, particularly in cities like Nagpur, Jalgaon and Thane, which have reported below 20 per cent coverage. Civic bodies have to play a supportive role in this. The state should also identify more hospitals to provide health services under the scheme.

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