HYDERABAD: The budgetary provision for the National Health Protection scheme is actually Rs.2000 crores this year.

The manner in which it has been announced gives the impression that the scheme starts as of now. No, far from it. The scheme does not even have back of the envelope workings. The government is still to work them out.

Jaitely said a sum of Rs.30,000 crores have been allocated. But Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Jaitely's de facto boss, has just confirmed that only Rs.2000 crores have been actually allocated.

As usual they are just distracting us with promises and hoping to stave off the inevitable - popular discontent. Take for instance the much-hyped National Health Protection scheme to cover 500 million people or 100 million families with medical cover of up to Rs.5 lakhs.

But what is the proposed outlay for this? It is a measly Rs.30, 000 crores translating into a premium of about Rs.3000 per beneficiary family, whereas the prevailing premiums are at about Rs.4400 a year.

Even here the government is being disingenuous. If this were in addition to what is allocated to the Rs.1.38 lakh crores to health, which was Rs.1.22 lakh crores in the previous year, there would be some little cause to cheer. No, instead it comes from the health budget, which in effect means that this year less money is being spent on public healthcare

So if government hospitals and clinics continue to have fewer doctors and lesser medicines be happy with your health insurance and go to a private nursing home or corporate hospital and see how soon the cover evaporates. In effect this is a direct benefit to private healthcare providers, and insurance companies who will get an Rs.30, 000 crores windfall.

The Citizen Bureau adds: Dr Arun Mitra, Senior Vice President Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), has also issued a statement saying that the government is completely shying away from its commitment to universal health care.

The statement reads, “These provisions in the budget are total jugglery as it offers no real health benefit to the people of the country. Instead of direct state expenditure on health, the proposal is to cover insurance to 10 crore families.

This insurance already exists under Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY). This scheme is to pass the benefit to the insurance companies and private hospitals through public private partnership.

Only 24 medical colleges in the state sector will be upgraded. This reflects the tendency to open up medical education to the private sector and make it more expensive which will make healthcare expensive.

That the government will give nutrition to the persons suffering from Tuberculosis is a hoax. What is needed is food security to poor people with increased wages so that the nutritional status of the society as a whole improves and disease rate comes down. Just giving some food to the sick people means nothing.

There is no talk of streamlining the drug prices. The spending on drugs forms the 70% of out of pocket expenditure on health. That free dialysis will be free for poor people, does not explain the definition of poor as a result lot of people will be left out. Increase in health cess from 3% to 4% will be a burden on the people.