The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to bring Press Information Bureau (PIB)-accredited journalists under the comprehensive health insurance scheme being formulated for the Central government employees as per the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission.

It was also decided to renew the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) facilities to those journalists already enlisted under it but there was no word on including new journalists under the scheme.

The Cabinet also asked the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to bring a comprehensive health insurance scheme in a time-bound manner that would also cover journalists accredited to the PIB and their families, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters.

The Prime Minister has asked the Health and Family Welfare Ministry to assess whether the scheme for journalists could be subsidised, she said.

Renewal

The Cabinet also decided to renew CGHS facilities to 1,258 PIB-accredited journalists at the renewed rates determined by the Cost Accounts Division, Department of Expenditure. Arrears for the past years will be recovered in three instalments. Also, the CGHS cards of 337 family members of journalists already availing themselves of the facility will not be withdrawn provided the contribution at the rate fixed is paid for each member of the family.

However, there will not be any further inclusion of the family members of journalists. Validity of CGHS cards of accredited journalists was extended from time to time after they paid their contribution of Rs. 600 per annum, which was fixed during 1994. Subsequently, the rates were revised twice at the rate of Rs.1,067 per annum, up from Rs. 600 as earlier.

But since the journalists resisted the increase in subscription, renewal was held up since March 2008. The cards of those who paid the subscription at the revised rates were renewed. There are over 1,930 PIB accredited journalists at present.

Under the CGHS facility, accredited journalists are entitled to OPD facilities and hospitalisation in Central government hospitals. The government now says that the facility was intended only for journalists but “by mistake” family members of a few journalists were also included.

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