Thiruvananthapuram: Likely financial crunch of the Kerala government has roiled the smooth execution of the free medical insurance programme called Karunya Arogya Suraksha Paddhati (KASP). Private hospitals, which are part of the project, may stop free medical treatment for eligible insurees from December 1.
The healthcare scheme has, in fact, virtually stalled even before that date as neither private or government-run hospitals and laboratories are in a position to take up or refer patients for free treatment or diagnosis as requisite funds are not forthcoming.
Most of the costly tests prescribed by the government hospitals are carried out at private laboratories. The expenses incurred for those, who are covered under the mass insurance scheme, have to be given by hospitals participating in the scheme. As necessary funds have not been allocated, the government hospitals have more or less stopped tests or further treatment conducted at private hospitals.
About 41 lakh families have been enrolled for the free medical insurance scheme.
So far government hospitals have shelled out Rs 300 crore and private hospitals that are part of the scheme have spent Rs 50 crore for the project that was started in April this year.
The hospitals have received Rs 100 crore from Reliance General Insurance Company Limited that has the contract to run the health-cover scheme. This was handed over even before the government allocated money to the private insurer. The government later sanctioned Rs 140 crore for Reliance. However, it is yet to pay the remaining Rs 40 crore to Reliance.
The contract deal for one year is Rs 692 crore. Ninety per cent of this, i.e., Rs 623 crore, had to be handed over within September 30.
Even though Reliance would receive the money set out as per the contract even after a while, patients continue to suffer when the free healthcare facility is stopped over financial crunch as they have to fund the expenses on their own. Reliance does not have to reimburse that money later on.
Centre yet to pay
As KASP was running in Kerala the Centre's ambitious universal healthcare project, Ayushman Bharat Yojana, was merged in it. As per this, the Centre has to allocate Rs 252.40 crore to the state in a year. However, the state has only received Rs 38 crore so far.
It is not known whether this is a factor that prompted the state not to advance pending money for the free health insurance scheme.
Earlier this year the popular Karunya Benevolent Fund (KBF) was replaced by the KASP, under which a family gets health cover worth Rs 5 lakh a year. The government had raised money for the erstwhile Fund through a dedicated Kerala lottery called 'Karunya' which means 'benevolence'. Poor people afflicted with serious ailments were the beneficiaries of KBF.