Sweden, Nepal study India’s digital rollout of health assurance scheme

NEW DELHI : Two countries on opposing ends of the development scale— one a much-praised welfare state and the other among the world’s poorest nations—have been studying India’s AB PM-JAY, intrigued by the ambitions of the world’s largest health assurance scheme.

The delegations from Sweden and Nepal last week visited the National Health Authority (NHA), the government department that is responsible for ensuring the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana reaches 500 million people through paperless digital platforms.

Dr R.S. Sharma, CEO, NHA said, “I am not sure what they want to learn from PM-JAY because that is for them to figure out. The only thing we are able to disseminate to them is how we are doing PM-JAY. The couple of things about PM-JAY are its scale to reach out to 500 million people and secondly, it’s paperless. So, we are processing everything on a digital form which makes everything transparent.”

“PM-JAY is not only digitizing itself and making things better in terms of checking fraud, it is also helping others to digitize their platform. We are taking other health schemes on PM-JAY’s digitized platform, for example, CGHS (which serves central government employees and their families). We have a programme for transgender and Central Armed Police Forces (CARF). So, other programmes are also riding on PM-JAY platform.”

The central government’s flagship health assurance scheme aims to provide a health cover of 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to over 107 million poor and vulnerable families—or 500 million individuals—that make up the bottom 40% of the population.

“The NHA has played a very critical and important role to create access to healthcare across India. Both the work done via the development of health and wellness centres as well as the Ayushman Bharat healthcare scheme run with the states,” said a member of the Swedish team.

The Swedish health delegation came as part of a visit by joint working groups (JWG) of the Sweden-India Health MoU. The idea of the meeting with the NHA was to have an introduction to its work, and the role it plays in public health.

“Sweden would like to explore possible partnerships between Swedish actors and the NHA towards its work on increased outcome and quality care,” said the Swedish team member requesting anonymity. “Sweden has developed expertise in the area of digital health and in fact have an independent digital health agency. The NHA have developed a strong digital health system—so there are several mutual learning possibilities on both sides.”

To be sure, since its launch in 2018, only around 200 million Ayushman cards have been issued, partly due to a pandemic-related slackening of pace.

Queries sent to the Swedish and Nepali Embassy spokespersons went unanswered.

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