UNCERTAINTY OVER a popular healthcare scheme launched by the Naveen Patnaik government in 2018, which the BJP had promised to replace with the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat Yojana if it came to power in Odisha, has led to complaints of empaneled private hospitals turning away patients within days of a change of guard in the state.

Confirming the complaints, the state Health Department has issued a clarification that the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) continues to be in force even as sources in Raj Bhavan said Governor Raghubar Das has asked state Chief Secretary PK Jena to take appropriate measures to remove the confusion. Later, Jena warned of “strict action” against hospitals that deny treatment under the BSKY.

This came a day after state BJP chief Manmohan Samal said that the BSKY had “limited scope” and “would be shut”. “We will implement the Ayushman Bharat Yojana the day we form the government in the state. Around 1.5 crore Odias, who are outside the state, will also be able to avail treatment of up to Rs 5 lakh under the scheme,” Samal told reporters at the party office.

Samal, however, later issued a statement saying that denying treatment to patients on the pretext of “confusion over the BSKY” is a social and legal crime. He appealed to the administration to issue directives to hospitals to continue treatment under the scheme.

The non-implementation of the Ayushman Bharat Yojana in Odisha was one of the issues vociferously raised by the BJP top brass during campaigning for the simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the state. It found mention in almost every speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who accused the Naveen Patnaik government of depriving the people of the benefits of the central scheme. Modi also promised that the scheme would be implemented in Odisha if the BJP came to power in the state.

Festive offer

Launched by the Patnaik government in August 2018, a month before the Center initiated the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, the BSKY is seen to be popular among the rural poor and covers 90 lakh households across the state. It entitles treatment up to Rs 5 lakh for men and Rs 10 lakh for women. Over 650 private hospitals in the state and 150 outside Odisha are empaneled under the scheme.

Ahead of the panchayat polls in 2022, the BJD had repackaged the scheme by providing smart cards to people and promised to make it a “near universal coverage” program in its 2024 manifesto.

With allegations of private hospitals refusing to accept patients under the scheme being reported after the fall of the BJD government, the state Health Department clarified that the scheme was still active, with the approved budgetary support.

“Hospitals are to continue treatment to beneficiaries as before. All claims raised by hospitals will be paid by the state health assurance society as before. Hospitals are to ensure that patients do not face any difficulty or disruption in availing services,” it said in a statement.

A Raj Bhavan source said, “The Hon’ble Governor has expressed deep concern over reports in the media regarding confusion over BSKY health cards post election results and beneficiaries being deprived of health services. He has asked the state Chief Secretary to take appropriate steps immediately so that no confusion regarding BSKY arises and beneficiaries get uninterrupted health care services.”

Later, Chief Secretary Jena said: “No empaneled hospital can ignore treatment to patients under BSKY or discharge them prematurely. The BSKY is still active until the new government takes a call in this regard. I want to assure people that there will not be any disruption in healthcare under the existing scheme.”

The BJP dislodged the BJD government, winning 78 of the 147 Assembly seats in the recently held elections.

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