A multibillion-rupee health insurance scheme of the government has suffered serious setbacks since its launch in December last year, a parliamentary panel learnt on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif unveiled Phase-I of the Rs9.1 billion scheme that promises cashless health services to the poorest. The three-year scheme will initially benefit people in 23 districts of the country.
Administrators, however, told the National Assembly Standing Committee on Planning and Development that the scheme faced serious setbacks before taking off. It has been launched without identifying the target population first.
“Due to lack of health infrastructure in districts like Bahawalnagar, in Punjab, and Chaghi, in Balochistan, the scheme cannot be launched in the regions despite their poor health indicators,” said PM’s National Health Programme Director Dr Faisal.
He disclosed that the scheme could not be administered through state-run district and tehsil headquarters hospitals, as they lack administrative and financial autonomy needed to qualify for the scheme.
Moreover, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh governments have not allocated the required funds for launching the scheme which envisages Rs1,300 health premium for each family. Of this, Rs1,000 has to be contributed by provincial governments.
The ruling party lawmakers who attended Tuesday’s meeting suggested that the premier either scrapped the scheme or changed the execution strategy for better results. “In its current shape, the scheme cannot benefit the most deserving people because they will never be able to get hold of a PM health card,” said the committee’s chairman, Abdul Majeed Khanan Khail.
Out of 23 districts picked out for Phase-I, so far the scheme has been launched only in Islamabad and Muzaffarabad, Dr Faisal said. “The prime minister is expected to launch the scheme in Quetta next month.”
He said people have been identified by using survey results of the Benazir Income Support Programme but this survey has many flaws. Only those districts have been selected where there is a proper health infrastructure, he added. “The Punjab government first proposed that Bahawalnagar be also included among the districts but we refused as it lacked the required infrastructure.”
Dr Asma Mamdot of the PML-N also raised the issue of excluding districts with poor health indicators from the scheme. “The districts of South Punjab like Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan are excluded from the first phase, which is regrettable,” she added.
Another PML-N MNA, Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal, also heaped criticism on his own government for pumping in billions of rupees in the private health sector instead of giving administrative and financial autonomy to state-run hospitals for qualifying for the scheme.
It is the PM Nawaz’s third major politically motivated initiative that has apparently failed to impress upon the stakeholders. Earlier, the PM’s much-touted Kissan Package and PM’s Youth Business Loan Programme had also failed to achieve the desired results.
The National Bank of Pakistan is reluctant to execute the youth loan scheme. The situation is so alarming that as of February 29, 2016, 23% of the total winners in the first ballot of February 2014, 839 winners of June 2014’s ballot and 2,979 winners of post-June 2014 ballots are still awaiting loans despite their cases being cleared for disbursements. Thousands are also waiting for response on loan applications.
Similarly, the Ministry of National Food Security has also admitted that the PM’s multibillion rupees Kissan Package could not be implemented on time, multiplying woes of peasants, who are hit hard by slump in commodity prices.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2016.