PESHAWAR: The government’s plan to extend Sehat Sahulat Programme to the entire province has been delayed by the insurance company’s demand for more premium to cover 100 per cent population instead of the existing 69 per cent, according to sources.

A meeting held with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in the chair in April had announced to extend the free healthcare programme to the entire province, covering about five million families instead of the present 2.5 million in the next fiscal.

The deadline was missed because State Life Insurance Corporation, which is facilitating the patients on behalf of government, refused to continue with Rs1,998 premium and demanded of the government to double the amount.

Under the SSP, people are given Sehat Insaf Cards to get free diagnostic and treatment services in 86 empanelled hospitals including public and private ones. The corporation receives Rs1,998 premium per family from the government annually according to the contract signed few months ago. Now it wants to double the amount for the whole families living in the province.

Insurance company wants amount of premium doubled

The government cannot enhance the premium without fulfillment of legal formalities. The government will advertise it to find rates in the range of Rs3,000 premium to ensure that it starts from July 2020.

There will be rebidding in two weeks to select the firm. Currently, the government is targeting population on the basis of financial status in accordance with the data taken from poverty criteria identified in record of Benazir Income Support Programme.

“Once the tender process completes, coverage would be extended to the entire province,” officials told Dawn. They said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which pioneered the SSP, would become the first province to offer free health insurance to its entire population.

The programme, launched in 2016 in four districts, was extended to 1.8 million families in 2017 and then 2.5 million in late 2018. It has enabled more than 160,000 families to get free medication for major and minor ailments requiring hospitalisation.

Patients get cashless services in private and public hospitals of their choice.

The initiative has widely been acclaimed. It has implemented in Punjab and parts of Sindh and Balochistan, using KP’s model under which the provincial government allocates Rs6.3 billion per year.

The exact cost of whole coverage will be determined after bidding but the required amount will be Rs20 billion approximately per year. The programme has facilitated only 1.5 per cent of the designated families because most of the people don’t know about its benefits.

One card authorises eight members of the same family to seek free treatment up to Rs720,000 per annum. The card is rechargeable.

Authorities expect that extension of the programme will cause massive inflow of patients because awareness level of city-based people is high, especially in Peshawar where top private and government hospitals are open for the card-holders.

The SSP has yet to distribute cards to 600,000 families from the last year. Therefore, the government is taking all legal measures to ensure that the entire process is done in transparent manner.

The SLIC has also agreed to provide free services to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s card holders in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and other cities where it has implemented the programme on behalf of federal government.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2019