Neighbouring Karnataka, which had less than half of Maharashtra’s 20.48 lakh Covid-19 cases, got six times the assistance at Rs 620 crore, according to statistics gathered under the RTI Act. The figures indicate fewer claims being processed in the state under the subsidised scheme for Covid treatment.
Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu got Rs 294 crore and Rs 141 crore respectively. Their Covid toll is less than a fifth of Maharashtra’s 51,360 deaths so far. “These figure correlate to the worst phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, between March and December, in India,” said Jeetendra Ghadge of the NGO Young Whistleblowers who sought the information from the Central ministry of health.
As per the RTI reply, 13.18 lakh Covid-19 testing and treatment cases were approved across the country at an expenditure of Rs 1,190 crore. “This is a fraction of the total positive cases of 10 million cases as on January 1, 2021,” added Ghadge. However, a senior government official said the Centre has made testing and treatment of Covid-19 cases free since April 2020 but updating of claims and payments would take time given the crisis at hand. “The point is the common man isn’t spending on testing or treatment at public hospitals or empanelled hospitals,” the official said.
A state-level official who did not want to be named said Maharashtra has treated five lakh patients free under the state government’s Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Arogya Yojana (MPJAY) since the pandemic started. “Another two lakh patients were treated with insurance in the private sector,” he said.
The MPJAY covers 2.5 crore people, while the PMJAY covers 82 lakh people. “It is a mathematical equation that is worked out on a pro rata basis. Once the state’s allocation of Rs 1.5 lakh (for a patient) is over, the Central scheme’s Rs 5 lakh cover kicks in. Care should also be taken to ensure that the state pays 60% of the patient’s expenses while the central scheme covers the remaining 40%,” said the official.
However, social activist Abhijit More said government insurance schemes have not been able to effectively help people. “At a recent meeting of the Jan Swasthaya Abhiyan, we had representations from people stating that they had to spend sums between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 14 lakhs for treatment in private hospitals,” he said. Some private hospitals did not allow people to avail of the state insurance scheme.
“PMJAY’s budgetary allocation last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its peak, was revised and cut down to half to around Rs 3,000 crore,” said More.
A Maharashtra government official said Maharashtra didn’t need more central assistance as the MPJAY cover has been adequate. “Moreover, southern states have made claims based on `packages’ that includes both the tests and treatment. Maharashtra, on the other hand, created the country’s largest network of 150 RT-PCR labs in the public sector to offer tests for free. We used central tests kits and funds for this. Also, we capped treatment costs in the private sector, leading to lower expenditure,’’ said a senior state government official.
However, RTI activist Ghadge said government schemes have a very limited reach mainly due to the limited number of empanelled hospitals and the reluctance of hospital administrations to enroll in the scheme. “Even empanelled hospitals avoid the scheme and do not assist people with the pre-authorisation processes,’’ he said.