NEW DELHI – The Indian government announced on Thursday a healthcare plan for 100 million poor families, covering around 500 million people.
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the plan while presenting the budget for 2018-2019 in the Indian parliament, although he left out details of its cost or how it will be financed.
“This will be the world’s largest health protection scheme,” said Jaitley during his budget speech.
The beneficiaries of the program, Jaitley said, will receive up to Rs. 500,000 ($7,850), a considerable sum for poor Indian families.
Moreover, Rs. 6 billion ($94.26 million) have been allocated for tuberculosis patients, each of whom would receive Rs. 500 per month for the duration of their treatment.
The government also plans to set up 24 new medical colleges by upgrading district hospitals.
Three years ago, Jaitley had proposed a universal social security system that would cover all Indians as well as measures to lower premiums for existing public insurance schemes for lower income groups.
“The government is slowly but steadily progressing toward universal health coverage,” Jaitley said on Thursday.
India does not provide universal social security system for its citizens, although Indians are covered by a countrywide universal health care system.
However, this system does not have the capacity to respond to the needs of the entire population, a majority of whom do not have real access to healthcare.
India ranked 154 out of 195 countries in terms of access to healthcare in 2015, according to a report in the Lancet medical journal.
According to various other sources, around 70 percent of people in rural India have no or very little access to healthcare.