Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday congratulated the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for providing free health coverage to all residents of the province under the Sehat Sahulat Programme.
In a tweet on Monday morning, the premier said that about 40 million people will receive free healthcare of upto Rs1m every year in more than 400 hospitals — both public and private, adding that KP was the first province in the country to provide universal health coverage for its residents.
Provincial Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, while addressing a gathering in Dera Ismail Khan, said that when he had pitched the idea of providing free healthcare to the entire province to Prime Minister Imran, the latter had supported him, saying that other provinces will also follow suit if such a step is taken in KP. CM Mahmood noted that a similar programme was being introduced in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the prime minister had given the Punjab government a deadline as well.
"Today, big provinces are following a small province. I feel that credit [for this] goes to all of us, to myself, to the cabinet ministers and to you, the people of KP," said Mahmood.
He said that a budget of Rs18 billion will be allocated to the programme. The CM said that the prime minister had also announced a package of Rs600,000 per family for the people of erstwhile Fata which will be raised to Rs1m in the next budget. He urged the people who are not registered with the National Database & Registration Authority to do so in order to avail free healthcare.
The chief minister further revealed that he has directed provincial Health Minister Taimur Jhagra to include snake bite and dog bite injections to the healthcare package as well since they are expensive.
On Sunday night, the chief minister had termed the step as a "big move towards achieving the dream of [a] welfare state on pattern of Riasat-i-Madina as envisioned by Imran Khan".
"With tomorrow's launch of Sehat Card in Southern Districts we'll become first province to have universal coverage of health insurance for 100% population . It's a big step towards achieving the dream of welfare state on pattern of Riasat-e-Madina as envisioned by Imran Khan," Mahmood had tweeted.
The prime minister had launched the programme to cover all deserving families in the province in August last year.
At the time, the premier had also promised to implement this facility in Punjab, where the PTI is in power, and said he would also suggest the Balochistan government to launch a similar initiative in the province.
Once the populations of the three provinces had access to free healthcare, he said, the people in Sindh, who are ruled by the PPP, would demand the provincial government to introduce a similar programme.
Both public and private hospitals designated by the programme, which was introduced in phases, will provide free treatment to residents of the province. State Life Insurance Corporation, which has been selected after a competitive bidding process, will be paid Rs2,849 per family annually.
The PTI government had launched the first phase of the Sehat Sahulat Programme in 2015, in which three per cent of the population (100,000 families in four districts) of the province received healthcare insurance.
The programme was extended to 51pc of the population (1,791,930 people in all districts) in the second phase in 2016. The third phase of the programme was started in 2017, covering 64pc of the population (3,200,000 families).
Last year in October, 6.617 million residents of Swat, Buner, Dir Upper, Dir Lower, Shangla, Malakand, Chitral Lower, Chitral Upper and Bajaur districts of Malakand division started receiving free health services regardless of their financial status.
It was followed by the Hazara division in November, Mardan and Peshawar in December. From this month onward, the service has been extended to the entire province as the residents of Kohat, Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan will also start availing free healthcare.