PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on Friday passed the KP Universal Health Coverage Bill, 2022, to give legal cover to the provincial government’s flagship Sehat Insaf Card scheme, which covers 7.4 million families across the province with each family entitled to Rs1 million worth of free healthcare annually.

It also passed with unusual haste seven other important bills, including KP Fiscal Responsibility Bill, KP Revenue Authority Bill, Healthcare Facilities Bill and Local Government Bill. The entire legislative exercise was completed within 30 minutes as the house rejected the amendments proposed by the opposition to the bills.

MPA of the opposition Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal Inayatullah Khan had proposed 15 amendments to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Revenue Authority Bill and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government (Amendment) Bill. However, they all were dropped. One amendment proposed by Nighat Yasmin Orakzai of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party to the Universal Health Coverage Bill was also dropped.

On one occasion, law minister Fazal Shakoor Khan refused to respond to Inayatullah’s amendments to the revenue authority bill straightaway. Several amendments were dropped after the chair put them to vote.

Govt also rushes seven other bills through house

“Simple is that the government doesn’t agree to these amendments,” the minister replied rudely when the opposition member insisted to give rationale for rejecting amendments proposed by him.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had launched its flagship social health protection initiative, Sehat Sahulat Programme, in Feb 2021. It claims that around 40 million people are receiving free healthcare valuing up to Rs1 million every year in more than 400 hospitals — both public and private.

The law provides for social health protection Initiative branded as the Sehat Card-Plus programme soon after the commencement of this act.

“The programme shall be executed by policy board through a third party insurance firm having expertise in the field of health insurance. The policy board to be headed by the health minister will select a third party insurance firm through a transparent bidding process, in accordance with the provisions of the procurement law and rules.

“The board shall make an agreement with the selected insurance firm, covering all matters relating to the execution of the programme, including the basic package, claims management and other ancillary matters,” the approved bill reads.

The law said the computerised national identity card of each beneficiary would serve as the basis of eligibility for availing benefits under the programme subject to available budget, all the beneficiaries of the programme would be provided with a basic package of in-patient healthcare services to be determined by the board with the approval of government.

It added that the maximum limit of the basic package in terms of money would be fixed by government on the recommendations of the board.

“The insurance firm might, with the approval of the board, offer additional package, which was over and above the basic package, to interested individuals, families and groups on payment of such additional premium, as determined by government. The empanelled hospitals would be paid by the insurance firm for the provision of services in a manner, as may be prescribed by regulations,” it said.

Under the law, the public sector hospitals will retain, without loss of budget, all of the additional income to be utilised for the improvement of quality of healthcare services and payment of incentives to the hospital staff in line with regulations.

“The policy board will establish a central management information system through a third party to process all information regarding enrolment of beneficiaries, empanelment, admissions and treatment in hospitals, claims data, beneficiaries’ grievances and any other information. A chief executive officer will be responsible for day-to-day administration of the affairs and would exercise such powers and perform such functions as prescribed by regulations or assigned to him or her by the policy board.”

The approved bill said a portion of the fund would be specified as Reserve Fund to be used in the manner, as may be prescribed by regulations, for payment of cost exceeding the basic package limit or to cover the cost of those procedures or treatments not covered under the programme, while the accounts would be audited by the Auditor General of Pakistan.

It added that the policy board would render all-out support to the Auditor General’s Office while carrying out audit of the programme’s accounts.

The food fortification, fiscal responsibilities and debt management, revenue authority, sales tax on services, healthcare facilities management, motor vehicles (amendment) and local government (amendment) bills, 2022, were also passed.

Also, the government introduced the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Environmental Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2022, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Commerce and Trade Statistics Bill, 2022. The chair later adjourned the sitting until June 10.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2022

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