While the Union Budget of 2018-19 was generally full of lofty claims with no details, perhaps the biggest of them all was that of the Universal Health Coverage dubbed as ‘Modicare’. The scheme touted as the “world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme” claims to provide free health insurance of Rs. 5 lakh per family to nearly 40% of the population. As is typical of the BJP government, this too is full of hype and sketchy on details. Riddled with inherent bottlenecks without a clear roadmap, Modicare seems stuck. It appears as if the government and the institutions concerned are taking all steps in isolation with a piecemeal approach to health.
For a government that preaches transparency, there is no comprehensive blueprint that has been provided. Much like his other signal schemes, Modicare too seems to be following in the path of demonetisation and GST, naturally going awry. After completing the first round of data cleansing, the government seems to be stuck locating the actual whereabouts of urban beneficiaries, who are continuously coming in, going out and migrating within as well as outside the urban spaces. The urban space on the outskirts of major cities is geographically diffused and correspondingly the urban poor population in these areas is naturally in a state of constant flux. This makes targeting beneficiaries extremely difficult for such a massive pan-India scheme like Modicare.
While there are natural hindrances in communication and targeting of urban poor beneficiaries, the previous track-record of the BJP in terms of implementation makes the case worse. To replicate what the UPA did with MNREGA successfully, the BJP would need a clear and dedicated centre-state strategy with a defined roadmap, something which till date seems to be begging.
In our villages, government hospitals are like empty casings with no doctors, nurses, or medicines. In urban areas, government hospitals are plagued with such huge administrative failures that the joke is that Indians go to government hospitals to die, not to live. To be an Indian and forced to go to a government hospital is not a blessing but a curse of poverty. Till the time PM Modi addresses that, no Modicare will change the fortunes of India’s health story.