Thiruvananthapuram/Alappuzha: Changes in the Karunya medical-aid scheme of the Kerala government will hit patients suffering from serious ailments hard. With the discontinuation of the Karunya Benevolent Fund (KBF), patients suffering from cancer, kidney failure, liver and neurological diseases, and haemophilia won't get any financial assistance for their treatment if not admitted in the hospital.
A new rider in the Karunya Arogya Suraksha Paddhathi (KASP) that replaced the KBF is unfavourable to outpatients. Under the KASP, a family gets a health cover worth Rs 5 lakh a year. But that is applicable only for inpatient treatment, not for expenses incurred by outpatients as well as for domiciliary care.
Until the KASP came into effect on April 1, the state government used to provide financial assistance to patients undergoing treatment for serious illnesses even at home under several schemes.
Now, the 40.96 lakh KASP members will not get any outpatient treatment assistance from the KBF. Though Finance Minister Thomas Isaac told the Assembly that they will be getting financial assistance for their continued treatment, no notification has been issued in this regard.
Until March 31, cancer patients used to get up to Rs 5.70 lakh under various schemes even if they were not hospitalised.
Meagre inpatient facility
The KASP offers Rs 5 lakh health coverage, but only for in-patient treatment. The Thiruvananthapuram Regional Cancer Centre has 307 beds and the Malabar Cancer Centre has 203. At the medical colleges, the number of beds is less than 20 for cancer, kidney, liver, and neurological diseases sections.
Patients are generally prescribed medicines and sent home, and have to report at the OP section once in a while. Even if they undergo treatment at home, the medicines are very expensive. Under the KASP, such patients won't get any financial assistance.
No clarity on haemophilia
For haemophilia patients, until now there was no income limit in order to be eligible for the financial assistance because the medicine prices were high. Now, there is no clarity on what will happen to haemophilia patients.
Hurdles for heart patients
The maximum financial assistance allowed for heart patients under the KASP is Rs 65,000 or one stent, and Rs 97,000 for two. However, more than 30% patients spent more than this, doctors say.
In case if the patient needs a third stent, he or she should pay for it from own pocket. The best quality blood thinner medicine today costs Rs 28,000. But under the KASP, only Rs 15,000 is provided for the medicine, thus forcing patients to buy lower quality drugs.
Cancer patients too hit
Cancer patients are divided into several categories. If a breast cancer patient is detected with bone cancer, there is no provision to provide free treatment. The medicines prescribed for the patient could be included at some other section. Now, even if the medicine is available at the hospital, they won't be able to give it to the patients. Besides, there are restrictions in carrying out several tests too.
New registrations on
The KASP which came into effect on April 1 replaced the popular KBF launched by the previous government. About 75 per cent families have already completed the registration formalities and have availed the card. Camps are being held at ward levels to add the rest to the new scheme.
The Kerala government has also welcomed applications for medical aid under the old KBF with a few riders. Families which are not part of the new KASP and having an annual income of up to Rs 3 lakh, have been allowed to avail the KBF for medical expenses incurred till March 31.