On Health, BJP Manifesto Replugs Existing Schemes But Is Vague on Other Plans

The BJP has reiterated the Ayushman Bharat health insurance and wellness centre scheme.

New Delhi: With three days to the elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party has finally released its manifesto on Monday. The party has made eight promises in their healthcare chapter.

“We are committed to leverage all resources to ensure that the out-of-pocket expenditure on health is reduced and all citizens can avail necessary medical services,” says the manifesto.

To this end, the BJP proposes very little that is fresh, but replugs the Ayushman Bharat health insurance and wellness centre scheme.

In the past, the government has already promised to set up 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres by 2022. This promise was repeated in the BJP’s manifesto with the additional detail that so far, 17150 centres have become functional and they want to take it “to next level”.

This next level will involve having telemedicine and diagnostic laboratory facilities at these centres by 2022.

More medical colleges

The BJP says they want to set up one medical college in every district, through public or private participation, by 2024. Seventy-five of these will be set up by 2022.

The party says it wants to double the number of doctors in the country by 2024 and it claims to have increased the number of MBBS seats by 18,000 and post graduate medical seats by 12,000.

But the medical education field is ridden with corruption and on this, without going into details, the manifesto says it will accelerate reforms that can bring transparency to the field.

BJP makes no real promises on immunisation, nutrition and tuberculosis

No government can afford to ignore basic yet massive health issues in India like immunisation, nutrition and tuberculosis. On this too, the BJP says in vague terms that it will work on the issues further.

The party says they will make the National Nutrition Mission a “mass movement” and ensure “full immunisation coverage for all the children and pregnant women” by 2022.

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The current BJP government has already committed to eliminate TB in India by 2025, even though the global goal is 2030. India tops all countries for the largest TB burden – more than 25 lakh people suffer with TB in India and over three lakh people die every year due to TB.

In the manifesto, the BJP once again makes the promise of TB elimination by 2025.

After cardiac stents, more affordable medical devices

The current BJP government has been talking about making drugs, diagnostics and medical devices more affordable. For example, the government has been promoting the Jan Aushadhi scheme for generic medicines and the drug price regulator passed orders to bring down the prices of cardiac stents.

In the manifesto, the BJP says it will create a list of essential medical devices and have a separate pricing policy for devices to ensure “accessibility and affordability to masses”.

In addition to the healthcare chapter

Apart from the eight promises in the healthcare chapter, the manifesto has a few other promises that impact health policy.

For example, it has said the BJP will focus on the early detection of disabilities in pre-schools and anganwadis.

For pregnant women, it flags existing schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Matritva Suraksha Abhiyaan and makes no specific new promises, but says the party will ensure good and affordable maternal healthcare for all women.

On malnutrition, the BJP does make a specific promise – it says it will reduce the malnutrition level by at least 10% in the next five years.

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On Swachh Bharat, now that there has been widespread toilet construction, the BJP says it will focus on the next important step, behavioural change.

Access to water remains a challenge in India, 72 years since independence. On this, the BJP says they will launch a ‘Jal Jivan Mission’ to bring piped water to “every household by 2024”.