Doctors talk to patients as they look at their medical records at the Acharya Tulsi Regional Cancer Treatment & Research Institute in Bikaner, Rajasthan, India (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)  

Beds In Rural Areas, Pricing Biggest Challenges To Ayushman Bharat Scheme

The biggest challenge to the Narendra Modi government’s ambitious plan to provide healthcare to 10 crore families will be the availability of hospital beds in tier-II and tier-III cities and in rural areas, said Indu Bhushan, chief executive officer of Ayushman Bharat.

The prime minister announced the roll-out of a pilot project on Sept. 25 under the scheme, also known as the National Health Protection Mission, during his Independence Day address on Wednesday. Ten states and union territories have been selected for the pilot run.

The scheme is essentially a Rs 5-lakh cashless family floater insurance covering all members of the household for a year. Bhushan, in an interview with BloombergQuint, said the private sector will be incentivised to open more hospitals “in lagging areas”. The pilot project, he said, will initially involve only government-run hospitals.

We are targeting 50 crore people. If, on average, 2 percent of them need hospitalization, we would have 1 crore admissions. And if we say that each hospital can provide 200 bed days we would need 2 lakh beds.
Indu Bhushan, CEO, Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission

Bhushan admitted that a full roll-out—that will bring in approximately 50 crore Indians—in 40 days will be challenging. We have, from the hospitals that have come onboard, 60,000 beds, he said. He estimated that at least 2 lakh beds will be required if the scheme is to run at full capacity.

Pricing of health packages has been another pain-point, with the Indian Medical Association questioning the viability of providing healthcare at the proposed low costs. Bhushan said that this has been a “bone of contention” but assured that treatment rates under the scheme are “the median” and that states have the flexibility to change them.

We are hoping and expecting that we’ll find a middle ground. This is just the beginning and we’re putting a system in place for cost methodology.
Indu Bhushan, CEO, Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission