One of the DMK government's flagship welfare schemes, the Chief Minister's Insurance Scheme (Kalaignar Kapiitu Thittam) will give way to a new public health insurance scheme, the government announced on Friday.

While details of the new scheme are yet to be worked out, official sources say it will be launched soon. According to the Governor's address in the Assembly, “a new Public Health Insurance Scheme will be launched shortly to achieve the objective of universal health care by terminating the existing health insurance scheme, as it is not comprehensive and effective in fulfilling public aspirations.”

The old health insurance scheme for life-saving surgeries was launched in 2009 at a function in Chennai by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. It promised to cover families, whose annual income was less than Rs.72,000 for a sum of Rs.1lakh for four years. The government had set aside Rs.517.3 crore for paying premiums, and issuing cards in the first year. It also roped in a number of private hospitals to carry out life-saving surgeries, and had the insurance companies refund the hospital for charges incurred.

Health Department officials said they were working out a smooth transition, in order that card holders were not put to any hardships in the period between end of one scheme and the commencement of the other.

Medical tourism

Also of interest to public health experts was the announcement that the government would pay special attention to the improvement of infrastructure in primary health centres and government hospitals. All urban Public Health Centres will be upgraded to round-the-clock units to benefit the urban poor.

Medical tourism will be promoted in a big way by setting up medi-cities supported with research facilities under the public - private partnership agreements.

The government will also formulate a clear policy and frame guidelines to attract private investments in the health sector, the Governor's address stressed.

Additionally, the government introduced the concept of Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI) in the address, stating that it will endeavour to improve the PQLI in rural areas by providing safe drinking water, sanitation, round-the-clock health facilities, quality education and all-weather roads.