NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of the launch of the ambitious Ayushman Bharat scheme was lauded by various organizations which called it a much-awaited gift to the nation as it would ease healthcare woes of the poor in India.

The scheme, touted as the world’s largest healthcare scheme, aims to provide coverage of Rs five lakh per family annually, benefiting more than 10 crore poor families. The PwC India and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said the scheme is one of the major policy initiatives of the government for the vulnerable section of the Indian population which, if implemented effectively, will help the nation move closer to the sustainable development goal of ‘universal health coverage’.

“It is extremely worrying that nearly 5560 million Indians are pushed into poverty every year because they are unfortunately compelled to shell out half of their annual household expenditure to meet medical needs, especially for hospitalization.”It is expected that the scheme will have a far-reaching impact on the entire Indian healthcare and insurance landscape,” they said in a statement.

They, however, added the execution of the scheme, will be a big challenge since it would involve identifying and focusing on the right critical success factors, allocating the optimum budgetary support, acting speedily to cover all the beneficiaries and appropriate incentivizing of all stakeholders like insurance companies, third-party administrators and healthcare providers. Founder and Chairman of Apollo Hospitals Group Prathap C Reddy welcomed the announcement, saying it is a call to medical fraternity to rise to the occasion and work towards easing the healthcare woes of crores of Indians.

“As the first step towards Universal Health Coverage, this is a pivotal moment in the country’s healthcare journey that will require the entire healthcare ecosystem, public and private, to work with a collective sense of purpose and synchrony,” he said. Reacting to the announcement of the scheme, apex healthcare body “Healthcare Federation of India” (Nathealth) said Modi has given the nation a much-awaited gift which will act as a principle vehicle to transform the entire healthcare ecosystem in the country.

“To achieve set goals under the Scheme, all stakeholders need to move forward in a collaborative spirit. At Nathealth, we firmly believe that accessibility, affordability and accountability are the prime priorities for healthcare sector. Building a strong network of providers is very critical for successful implementation of the scheme,” said, Secretary General at Nathealth Anjan Bose. Indian Medical Association (IMA) members were not available for a comment.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his government will launch on September 25 the ambitious Ayushman Bharat healthcare scheme which aims at benefiting 50 crore Indians. The scheme aims to target the poor, deprived rural families and it identified an occupational category of urban workers’ families, 8.03 crore in rural and 2.33 crore in urban areas, as per the latest Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) data.

The Centre has allocated about Rs 10,000 crore for the project. The Health Ministry has launched a formal process to empanel public and private hospitals to achieve universal health coverage under the program. PTI