Since the state government has now completely done away with the BPL criteria, more than 90 per cent of families in Andhra Pradesh can now avail of the scheme.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com.
A family or a household that owns a personal car is also now eligible for the universal health coverage in Andhra Pradesh according to the revised eligibility criteria issued for the 'Dr YSR Arogya Sri' scheme by the state government on Friday.
These new eligibility guidelines completely replace the existing norms under which only families below the poverty line could avail the state government's universal health cover.
Besides families owning a single personal car, households with annual income up to Rs 5 lakh, income tax assessees with income of up to Rs 5 lakh, land owners or farmers who own not more than 35 acres of land and private, part time and contract government employees whose annual income is less than or up to Rs 5 lakh are all eligible for the Arogya Sri coverage, according to the new guidelines.
Since the state government has now completely done away with the BPL criteria, more than 90 per cent of families in Andhra Pradesh can now avail of the scheme, observers say.
Andhra Pradesh has 17 million households with a population of 49.7 million, according to the 2011 Census figures. Of this, 12 million families (bout 70 per cent of the total number of families) were given white ration cards under the BPL criteria, as AP was known to be very liberal in defining the BPL category families. All the 12 million households were also issued Arogya Sri cards as they come under the BPL category of families.
Families having Arogya Sri cards are provided cash-free medical treatment up to a cost of Rs 5 lakh a year on a floater basis. The scheme provides coverage for 1,059 listed therapies for identified diseases in the 30 categories. The state was incurring anywhere between Rs 1,000 crore and Rs 1,200 crore on the Arogya Sri scheme every year. This cost is expected to go up as the new norms will extend the cover to many more families in the state.
These revised guidelines are just one of the several changes that the new government headed by Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy has brought to this popular universal healthcare scheme the past few months.
Earlier, patients could use the cashless treatment facility only in hospitals within the state. Removing these restrictions, the state government has allowed people to get the treatment even in hospitals in at Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru. It had also declared that any treatment costing more than Rs 1,000 would be covered under the Arogya Sri.
Chief Minister Reddy also re-christened the scheme by adding the name of his father, former chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. Incidentally, the universal healthcare scheme with a Rs 2 lakh cover under the name 'Rajiv Arogya Sri' was first launched in 2007 by the AP government when YSR was the chief minister.
In terms of coverage, all popular welfare schemes like subsidised rice, social security pensions or Arogya Sri are enjoyed by a high number of beneficiaries in AP and Telangana of the erstwhile undivided state, as the earlier governments were very liberal in issuing BPL cards and revising the income limits under BPL.
For instance, the Telangana government had refused to join the Centre's National Health Protection Mission, stating that only 2-2.5 million families in the state would be come eligible for Ayushnman Bharat under the Centre's BPL criteria, whereas more than 8 million families are covered by the state-sponsored Arogya Sri scheme. In 2016, Telangana raised the annual income limit for a BPL family to Rs 2 lakh from Rs 75,000 for urban poor and to Rs 1.5 lakh from Rs 60,000 to the rural poor.