Despite the government’s tall claims, the Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) in Punjab has failed to achieve the desired targets. Under this health facility scheme, Insaf Sehat Cards had been issued to five million families in 36 districts of the province.
However, only 93,000 people could benefit from this facility within one year, making the success rate of the programme only two per cent.
Some top government officials as well as the provincial finance department have also expressed concerns regarding the success of the programme. According to sources, by the end of the financial year 2019, 11.03 billion had been spent on the scheme. In the current financial year, Rs12 billion has been allocated for this project.
What is more, the Punjab Health Insurance Initiative Management Company has demanded an additional Rs5 billion to sustain the Sehat Sahulat Programme.
Sources added that the government set a target to issue Insaf Sehat Cards to 7.2 million families in Punjab out of which 2.2 million families could not be registered. Per the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) data, registration could not be carried out because 2.2 million families could not be traced.
Under the SSP, the government overall aimed to provide health facilities to 32 million people in Punjab, which makes only 30 per cent of the total population of the province. The target, however, could not be achieved.
Aside from the failure in achieving the promised targets, the Punjab Health Insurance Initiative Management Company has been struggling with internal problems. For instance, the posts for the company’s chief executive officer (CEO) and the chief operating officer have been lying vacant for the last two years. As a result, the chief financial officer (CFO) of the company has assumed additional positions and is overseeing several departments.
According to sources, a job advertisement was also posted for the position of the company’s CEO and a selection process was also carried out. However, the board of the company did not send the case to the provincial government for the appointment of the selected candidate.
As a result, the company, which was set up to support the largest flagship programme of the Punjab government, is being run on an ad hoc basis.
Under the SSP, medical services can only be availed in case of hospitalisation, that too in a hospital included in the panel of the programme. At present, more than 200 hospitals across the province are on the panel, but only about 17 of them are government hospitals.
The programme does not include emergency and OPD facilities, which is why this facility has been largely useless for the masses. Government employees, journalists, and people belonging to some other professions were also suggested to be included in the programme, but the federal government did not agree.
Per the centre, the programme cannot be changed and it will adhere to its original approved PC-1.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid said that the use and implementation of health insurance programmes are up to five per cent across the globe.
“We will, however, further enhance this facility so that it can be availed by as many people as possible,” she said.
On the other hand, the Punjab Health Department says that the proportion of beneficiaries of the Sehat Sahulat Programme in the province is between two to three per cent.
“If the use of health insurance exceeds seven per cent, the insurance companies run away. In India too, the use of health insurance scheme is five per cent,” a health department official, who chose anonymity, said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2020.
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