ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched on Thursday a state-run health insurance programme and described it as the first step towards making Pakistan a welfare state.
Initially, the initiative has been launched for the benefit of people of Islamabad, but later on it will be expanded to all parts of Punjab, Balochistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), according to officials.
People of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will not benefit from the initiative because their governments have declined to become part of the federal government programme.
Titled the “PM’s National Health Programme”, the scheme has been launched in 15 districts of Islamabad in the first phase and will be expanded to 23 districts in the second phase. Around 1.2 million families will get free healthcare facilities in the first phase.
About 1.2 million families will get free healthcare facilities in first phase
At the launching ceremony, Mr Sharif said that under the programme, people living below the poverty line would be able to get best possible treatment at government’s expense.
“I wish those provinces which are not part of the programme (Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) also join the scheme. It is not a matter of politics...,” the prime minister said.
He said the programme would benefit 3.2 million families living in Punjab, Balochistan and Fata in its two phases and a social mobilisation campaign would be launched to ensure registration of all deserving people under the scheme.
“People sell their property and household items for medical treatment of their loved ones, but this will not happen anymore,” he said, adding that the government would take strict action in case of complaints of corruption and wrongdoing in the scheme.
Mr Sharif praised the efforts of Maryam Nawaz and State Minister for National Health Services (NHS) Saira Afzal Tarar for the programme’s preparation and launching.
Most countries in the region, including Afghanistan, have started health insurance programmes on the recommendation of the World Health Organisation.
About 55 per cent of Pakistanis earn less than $2 a day and the government has decided to provide health insurance cover to all such people in phases and the data of the Benazir Income Support Programme will be used for the purpose, according to an official.
About the scheme, NHS Secretary Ayub Sheikh said: “We will learn from our experiences in Islamabad and will ensure that the programme is error-free and transparent whenever it is launched in other areas of the two provinces and Fata in the next phase.
“As soon as a patient is admitted to a hospital, a representative of the State Life Insurance Corporation (SLIC) will pay him/her a visit and when the number of patients crosses 15, another SLIC official will be sent there.”
The secretary said the Ministry of NHS would also use a separate monitoring system to ensure transparency in the programme.
“Because of this scheme, the people will be able to get the best possible treatment with respect and honour,” he added.
An official of the ministry said that medical insurance usually costs Rs25,000 per year, but the government would have to pay Rs1,300 for each family. “A family will get Rs50,000 for secondary care treatment which begins as soon as a patient is hospitalised.
“It includes all kind of diseases. According to our estimates, members of a family get admitted two or three times a year and Rs10,000 to Rs15,000 is spent each time,” he said.
“We have negotiated the charges with the hospitals and they will charge only Rs12,500 for delivery of a child and each family can get treatment of Rs250,000 under the category of priority diseases,” he said.
“Treatment of cancer, accidents, burns, diabetic complications, heart bypass and infection... will be insured under the priority diseases category. So each family will get treatment of Rs300,000 per year and the amount will be doubled in case of emergency. The amount will be contributed by the Pakistan Baitul Maal,” he said.
He said that under the programme, special cards would be issued to families for insurance which would be activated as soon as they were issued.
Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2016