The Right to Health Bill, tabled in the Rajasthan Assembly on September 22, 2022 has run into rough weather before its passage during the ongoing Budget session, with private hospitals demanding its withdrawal because of the provision for mandatory free-of-cost emergency treatment. The Congress government may find it difficult to evolve a consensus on the proposed legislation.
Private hospitals and nursing homes have started boycotting the State government’s health schemes, including the flagship Chiranjeevi Yojana, and refused cashless treatment to patients in protest against the Bill. Their decision has severely affected patients, who are forced to visit government hospitals for availing the schemes.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had announced an increase in the coverage amount of the Chiranjeevi Health Insurance Scheme from the existing ₹10 lakh to ₹25 lakh per family annually in his Budget speech last week. Mr. Gehlot later said it was a “revolutionary step”, not even witnessed in foreign countries, and it should be emulated by the Centre and other States.
The Right to Health Bill was referred to a Select Committee following a protest staged by private doctors outside the Assembly. Though the committee has deliberated on the changes proposed to be incorporated in the Bill based on the suggestions made by various stakeholders, there has been little progress in the legislative process, which will involve a debate in the House and its passage.
The delay in the enactment of the Right to Health Act, for which the ruling Congress had made a promise in its manifesto for the 2018 State Assembly election, has caused serious concern among the health activists. The action group on the Bill, formed by Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), said here on Tuesday that the private health operators’ opposition to the Bill was “unethical”.
JSA convener Narendra Gupta said the Bill was aimed at safeguarding people’s health and protecting them against premature mortality and falling into poverty through heavy out-of-pocket expenditure. “Any opposition to the Bill is against the interests of the common people and tries to stop their access to healthcare with dignity,” Dr. Gupta said.
The JSA, representing civil society groups and health rights activists, had prepared a draft Act on the subject and submitted it to the Health Department’s authorities shortly after the new government was formed in December 2018. The Bill introduced in the Assembly was based on this draft, which was also put up in the public domain in March 2022.
There are about 900 empanelled hospitals across the State providing treatment under the Chiranjeevi Yojana. About 60% of the scheme’s claim amount goes to private health operators, proving that they have made an immense contribution towards making the scheme a success.
Indian Medical Association Rajasthan branch president Sunil Chugh said the Bill, with its “draconian provisions”, would stifle the private health sector. He said the Bill had made it mandatory to provide free treatment without defining an emergency or making provisions to compensate hospitals.
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the agitating private medical practitioners has sought the intervention of Governor Kalraj Mishra in the matter. The JAC said in a statement that the Assembly’s Select Committee had adopted an “obstinate stance” and was not willing to carry out the amendments suggested by private hospitals.