Access to quality medical care is a far cry for the urban poor. The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), last December, launched an ambitious health insurance scheme for those belonging to economically weaker sections. However, the Vajpayee Arogyasri scheme has suffered a paralysis even before being implemented fully.

The BBMP has distributed around 32,000 biometric cards for the scheme but Commissioner M.K. Shankarlinge Gowda has issued a circular asking it be stopped. The reason? The State government too has launched a health scheme by the same name.

According to senior BBMP officials, the Principal Secretary of Health and Family Welfare met Mr. Shankaralinge Gowda for discussions to sort out the overlap. “The Health and Family Welfare Department feels there is no point in both the government and BBMP having a health scheme with more-or-less the same objective and name. So, until the government comes out with a clear directive, the BBMP has no choice but to suspend its scheme,” an official said. This, even though the BBMP has deposited Rs. 1 crore for the scheme through the Suvarna Arogya Trust.

Noble aim but…

The Vajpayee scheme was announced in the 2011-12 budget and Rs. 20.88 crore earmarked to benefit 35 lakh people from seven lakh families. The beneficiaries could avail themselves of medical treatment for 402 ailments in 37 empanelled private and government hospitals in the city. Senior citizens, pourakarmikas, autorickshaw and truck drivers, pensioners and slum dwellers were to be covered, according to the BBMP. However, with the scheme in a limbo, access has been denied to even those who were given the biometric cards.

Not the first time

This is not the first health insurance scheme announced by the civic body. In the 2010-11 budget, the BBMP had announced the Pandit Deen Dayal Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Yojane. Urban poor from across the city flooded BBMP offices with applications. That scheme also never really took off.

With the same objectives, it then reappeared with a new name in the 2011-12 budget. BBMP officials directed Deen Dayal scheme applicants to reapply for the new Vajpayee scheme.

Considering its fate, the budget allocation of Rs. 20.88 crore also lapsed.

“It was to be used by the end of the 2011-12 financial year. With all the confusion, we don't know if those who were given the cards will ever be able to use them,” an official said.

Keywords: BBMPpublic health

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