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This refers to “Why Modicare numbers just don't add up and may just remain on paper” (February 6). While presenting the Union Budget 2003-04, the then Finance Minister Jaswant Singh placed “the interests of our citizens” at the core of his government's economic endeavour and management of the country’s finances and proposed poverty eradication, addressing the lifetime concerns of citizens, covering health, housing, education and employment as one of his “panch priorities”. Through the budgetary provisions, he encouraged the public sector general insurance companies to design an affordable community-based universal health insurance scheme that would entitle eligibility to get reimbursement of medical expenses, a cover for death due to accident and compensation due to loss of earning up to a maximum of 15 days. The government did launch the Universal Health Insurance Scheme in July 2003 but it failed to elicit the targeted beneficiaries due to the exploitation of the Claim Minimisation Clause by Third Party Administrators (TPAs).
The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his 2018-19 Budget Speech did come up with a premium cost of around Rs 1,000-1,200 per family for the proposed health insurance scheme, but he did not provide sufficient information to believe that his scheme is "different". An insurance scheme of this scale represents India's healthcare system’s one of the most significant regulatory overhauls and is bound to evoke widespread comparisons with the erstwhile initiatives. Prudence demands that the government proceed with caution and learn from the experience of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the USA which was a major subject of litigation. Most of the insurance companies backed out of participating in Obamacare because of fewer subscriptions and rising insurances costs. With the US Supreme Court endorsing the provision requiring most individuals to purchase health insurance or pay penalty, the scheme was perceived as a system of "torturing" Americans and had to be ultimately scrapped by the Trump administration. It is time the government engaged with all stakeholders before rolling out a tax-funded universal health coverage plan for its citizens.
Shreyans Jain, New Delhi
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