PESHAWAR: The non-appointment of the State Life Insurance Corporation’s chairman by the federal government has been delaying the extension of Sehat Sahulat Programme to the entire population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, sources say.

Sources told Dawn that the SLIC had been implementing the SSP on behalf of the KP government but the post of its chairperson had been lying vacant for the last one year, so the plan to extend the coverage of free treatment to the province’s 100 per cent population couldn’t be executed.

They insisted that the process of the SSP’s coverage to all population could be initiated until that vacancy was filled.The sources said the SLIC chief, who had all financial and administrative powers of the corporation, was the only authority to sign agreement with the government.

They said provincial health minister Taimur Salim Jhagra recently sent a letter to adviser to the premier on commerce and industry Abdul Razak Dawood to ensure the early appointment of the SLIC chairperson for the execution of the SSP’s extension.

Province formally asks centre for SLIC chief’s appointment

The sources said even if the chairperson was appointed within a month, the health department would be able to extend the SSP to six districts only by Oct 1 and as many districts in Nov and Dec, while the entire coverage of the province by the programme would happen by Jan 1, 2021.

They said after agreement was signed, the SLIC would hire staff to scale up public awareness of the programme, empanel hospitals and get data from Nadra besides completing other related tasks.

The sources said the top SLIC vacancy had also been delaying the federal government-run free healthcare programmes in Punjab, Balochistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan.

They said a proposal vetted by the KP law department and outlining important features of free treatment scheme had already been submitted to the health department.

The sources said the SLIC had been selected to implement the SSP following competitive bidding process in which 11 firms took part.

They said to ensure transparency, the services of Nadra would be hired for the enrollment of beneficiary families.

According to them, the SLIC will be paid Rs2,849 per family every year, who will be offered free health services up to Rs1 million per family annually.

The annual cost of the programme is around Rs18 billion. Healthcare will be provided through a panel of public and private hospitals to be contracted across the province.

All secondary care and tertiary care diseases like accident and emergency, diabetes, kidney diseases including dialysis and transplant, hepatitis B and C, all type of cancers and heart and vascular diseases are covered under the programme.

The scheme also carries additional benefits, including Rs1,000 maternity allowance, Rs2,000 transportation charges for tertiary care, Rs10,000 funeral compensation and availability of 24/7 services for complaint management through a toll-free number in addition to vigorous campaigns throughout the province for the awareness of beneficiaries of the programme.

With the SSP being the flagship programme of the ruling PTI, its first phase was launched in 2015 covering three per cent of the population (100,000 families in four districts).

In the second phase, it was extended to 51 per cent of the population (1,791,930 population in all districts) in 2016, while the next year, Phase-III extended the coverage to 64 per cent of the population (3,200,000 families).

Under the plans, the scheme was to cover 100 per cent population of the province, including merged tribal districts, (6.06 million families) in 2020.

Until now, Rs10 billion has been spent on the free treatment of 222,724 people.

The government has been issuing the Sehat Insaf Cards to the scheme’s beneficiaries for free treatment. However, in future, all families will get cashless healthcare on the production of the computerised national identity cards.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2020