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Brushing aside criticism of the newly announced mega healthcare scheme, Niti Aayog Vice- Chairman Rajiv Kumar has said it is a "game changer" and revenue from the 1 per cent additional cess would be enough to meet the funding needs. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget for 2018-19 announced the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) announced to provide health insurance cover of Rs 500,000 to over Rs 100 million poor and vulnerable families. "This scheme is game changer," Kumar told PTI as he regretted that "a completely baseless and false propaganda" is being spread against the ambitious scheme of the Modi government. Former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has termed the proposal as "a jumla" with no money provided in the budget for it. On funding of the scheme envisaging to cover about 500 million people, the Niti Aayog vice-chairman said the allocation for the health sector has been raised by Rs 60 billion. Moreover, there is an existing facility of Rs 20 billion for the ongoing RSBY scheme. The government has provided further financial space to the health ministry by establishing an alternate mechanism Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) for funding capex needs of the health education project. And in addition, the one per cent extra education and health cess proposed by Jaitley in the budget will annually yield Rs 110 billion. All these combined would be more than adequate to meet the financing needs of welfare programme. The Centre and the state governments, Kumar added, will only have to bear the insurance premium which was likely to be very moderate.
It will benefit from bulk procurement and competition. "Like all central schemes it will have 60-40 ratio. Those states which want to join join the scheme will contribute 40 per cent. North East states will pay 10 per cent," he added. Many experts have questioned the ability of the government to fund such as ambitious scheme and also the availability of infrastructure to provide medical facilities for a large number of people across the country. On the infrastructure for health services providers, Kumar said the scheme will encourage private sector enterprises that will come up rapidly. "The bottom line is that financial resources will not be allowed to be a constraint on this game changing scheme," he insisted. According to senior Niti Aayog officials, the mega healthcare scheme will cost up to Rs 120 billion annually and it is likely to be launched either on August 15 or October 2. All poor people identified by the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 will be eligible for the scheme. It will be linked to Aadhaar but will not be a mandatory condition for availing the benefit.