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Ayushman Bharat PM-JAY: Empowering Millions Of Indian Women With Access To Essential Healthcare
Ayushman Bharat is a game-changer initiative to serve nearly 50 crore economically vulnerable Indians.
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PM-JAY, the world’s largest health assurance scheme aims to provide good quality, affordable healthcare to the poor, needy and disadvantaged sections of the society. This scheme has a strong potential to empower the poor and vulnerable women in India. Ayushman Bharat is Swasthya ke liye Vardaan- specially for women.
There are many features of the PM-JAY scheme that have helped women. Families with no adult male members, is one of the deprivation criteria for identifying target beneficiaries. This will help large number of women. In this scheme, there is no cap on the size of families, and hence the women in large male dominated families will not be deprived of their benefits (which was happening in earlier cap-based schemes). Kajalnetra, a small girl child, had congenital heart disease. In this family of five members, an income of about Rs. 6,000 was not enough to even take care of their basic needs. The family made peace with Kajalnetra’s condition; until they took the child to Bilroth Hospital in Chennai. Kajalnetra’s surgery was conducted successfully for free on 25th October 2018, under PM-JAY. Kajal, as her parents affectionately call her, is now happy and healthy, and her parents can't stop laughing at her antics.
The paperless, cashless features of PM-JAY is a great boon to the vulnerable women- both urban and rural. The inclusion of all pre-existing condition or ailments from day-one also helps the women. The Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Mitras (PMAMs) who are located at the empanelled hospitals also assist in identifying beneficiaries, helping these women to get free In-patient secondary and tertiary care and ensuring that their out of pocket hospitalisation expenses are nil. Champa Ben’s eyes had been watering for the past twenty years followed by headaches and dizziness. Champa Ben’s families worst fear came true when MRI confirmed that it was a brain tumour. A surgery was required. She was directed to the Neurological Department of Narayana Multi-Speciality Hospital, Ahmedabad. At the hospital, the Beneficiary Identification System of PM-JAY showed that Champa Ben was indeed eligible for free surgery. The family heaved a sigh of relief. If this was not a reality, their family’s entire earnings from being wiped off and ensured that they did not spiral into an eternal debt-trap for a loan of at least Rs. 3 lakhs.
Anita Dhansukh Beej, a mother of two, from Dadar & Nagar Haveli is another very grateful beneficiary of PM-JAY. She had gone to a doctor, to seek a solution for her nagging back pain. The doctor suggested surgery, which was unaffordable. But her family’s troubles came to an end when she got free surgery done under PM-JAY.
PM-JAY has recently revised its Health Benefits Packages (HBP). HBP 2.0 will help address the concerns of various stakeholders, and more private hospitals will get empanelled. There are number of health conditions that affect women. Of the 1,393 Health Benefits Packages under PM-JAY, 116 are female-centric, 64 are for only males while 1,213 are common to both. The initial data for utilisation of services under AB PM-JAY shows that the use of services is evenly balanced among men and women. Of all hospital admission requests, 52 per cent were for men and 48 per cent were for women. While there are gender gaps in the use of cardiology and nephrology-related services, majority of the users of oncology services are women. Rina Mali from Assam was suffering from Oesophageal cancer. A hospital empanelled under PM-JAY helped her with the treatment free of cost and saved the family from running into debt.
With the help of the planned 1.5 lakh Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (HWC), women and their families can now access primary healthcare closer to their homes. About 614 lakh women have accessed services at HWCs, accounting for 54% of the total footfalls. These HWCs are equipped to provide women access for getting screened for cervical, breast or oral cancer. They are also counselled for various health-related matters to prepare themselves better for any unforeseen emergencies. The Government is also committed to providing holistic health benefits to women which cover mental health issues.
Women are not only the beneficiaries of the healthcare programs but are in fact an important part of the team delivering healthcare services to the society. We must recognize the unrelenting and concerted efforts of lakhs of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs), staff nurses and women doctors, and lakhs of Anganwadi workers and Arogya Mitras who form the foundation of our healthcare and wellness network. Babita is one of the many young Arogya Mitras who does not miss on an opportunity to help others during the important identification and registration processes at the hospitals. Her biggest motivation is the relief and smiles that she sees on the faces of the vulnerable when they learn that they don’t have to bear the cost of their treatment.
Ayushman Bharat is a game-changer initiative to serve nearly 50 crore economically vulnerable Indians. In the last nearly one and a half year since the introduction of AB PM-JAY, there are millions of stories of the joys, hopes and triumphs of women who have benefited. As a step towards Universal Health Coverage, one of the key indicators of the success of Ayushman Bharat PM-JAY will be the increase in the uptake of this scheme by women. On this International Women’s Day, let us remember that the health of the women and development of our country are intertwined. An empowered woman can only create healthy, happy communities to produce transformative change, both locally and globally.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.