With the National Health Protection Scheme set to be rolled out in 12 States on August 15, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) is concerned if the government has enough time to meet its demand to revise its rates.

The NITI Aayog had earlier cancelled a meeting with the IMA scheduled for July 26 to discuss new rates for the scheme. The meeting is now likely to be held after August 10. Also known as Ayushman Bharat, the scheme aiming to provide medical insurance was to be launched across the country on Independence Day.

However, the launch may now take place only on October 2, Gandhi Jayanti. The government had published in May the rates that insurance companies would pay hospitals for the 1,350 procedures covered under the scheme. The IMA has claimed that the rates are too low and pledged support to the scheme based on the assurance that its package rates would be reworked. Dr. Ravi Wankhedkar, IMA president, said, “They cannot launch the scheme till the package rates are reworked.”

The IMA had submitted a costing study to the government to show the massive gap between the rates offered under Ayushman Bharat and the cost borne on the ground. The study shows that the scheme’s rates are much lower than rates in the existing Central Government Health Scheme.

Dr. Jayesh Lele, IMA member, said, “We are opposing the National Medical Commission Bill, which states that fees of 50% of private medical college seats will be unregulated. If future doctors qualify on such highly expensive seats, the cost of healthcare will never go down. This completely contradicts the government’s vision for Ayushman Bharat, which aims to provide affordable healthcare.”

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