By Hina Riaz
Health is recognised as a fundamental human right in the constitution of Pakistan and in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For a nation to prosper, everyone must have access to quality healthcare. Healthy people make a healthy nation; good health allows children to learn and adults to earn, it helps people to play their role in the social and economic development of a country.
In the developing countries of the world, the budget spent in the health sector is considered as investment instead of expenditure. The developed countries have ensured provision of healthcare services to all and sundry under the blanket of health insurance system; the expenses of health insurance are born by either the government or social security departments.
In Pakistan, people are afraid of falling ill; accounting less for the disease and more for the financial burden it brings along. The family of a patient has to face financial consequences in addition to the painful experience of the disease itself. Unexpected illness drags the poor segment of the society into the pit of borrowing money, forcing them assets sell outs and burn out of lifetime savings.
The provision of quality healthcare services to the publicis the foremost responsibility of the state. Fortunately, Punjab has a Health Minister who boasts of a career as top medical professionalhaving the perfect combination of excellent medical expertise and strong ambition to reform the healthcare sector Dr Yasmin Rashid has correctly measured the pulse of healthcare service delivery and introduced Sehat Insaf Card to transform the existing healthcare system into a more accessible, affordable and reliable system.
Approximately 7.2 million families consisting of 32 million members living below poverty line will benefit from Sehat Insaf Card scheme initially.According to the standard definition of poverty line, anyone earning less than 2 dollar (PKR 300) per day will be entitled to benefit from the scheme. The scheme covers approximately 30% population of Punjab at present with a scope to cover the entire population in the next few years.
Initially, the Sehat Insaf Card scheme has been announced only for the marginalized; the real deserver of the facility gets the card. Therefore, the data of National Socio Economic Registry (NSER) has been utilised for registration of deserving people and families which is further verified by NADRA for transparency.
The Sehat Insaf Card provides a comprehensive cover to its beneficiaries, the holder of the card will be entitled to get free-of-costhospitalization, emergency services, in-patient services (all medical and surgical cases), fractures/injuries, referral transportation, maternity services and free follow ups. In addition to the secondary care services,eight major diseases will be also covered under priority cover package including cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, burns and road traffic accidents, last-stage renal diseases and dialysis’, chronic diseases (TB,Hep A/B/C, HIV, chronic liver disease), organ failure, oncology and neurosurgical services.
The holder of Sehat Insaf Card will be able to get treatment upto PKR 720,000 annually. It is a laudable feature that the treatment cost of 720,000 can be further topped up if needed. In case if a card holder or his family member gets any major disease which is expensive then the treatment won’t be stopped due to exhaustion of insurance amount rather in such cases the government can provide further relief in the form of over excess of loss amount which is PKR 360,000 per family per annum and get the treatment completed.
Apart from the medical facilities, Sehat Insaf Card provides support in transportation also. The transportation cost of Rs 1,000 will be paid to per family per visit. Another valued feature of Sehat Insaf Card is the provision of burial support. If a patient dies while admitted to the hospital, burial support of Rs 10,000 per person will be paid to the bereaved family to support them in the hour of grief.
Another feature of Sehat Insaf Card scheme is inclusion of both public and private hospitals on panel list. Before this scheme the poor could not even imagine going to private hospitals as they are costly but now they can confidently walk into these hospitals and avail treatment.To ensure quality treatment, hospitals with adequate medical facilities have been taken on panel. Total 111 hospitals are empaneled till now.
The Sehat Insaf Card will improve service delivery in public sector hospitals. As the treatment in government hospitals is either free or low cost, the patient load in government hospitals is immense. With a lot of patients getting treatment from public sector hospitals, these hospitals fail to provide adequate health services which results in referrals and complaints. The Sehat Insaf Card has unlocked choices for public, now they can opt for any empaneled hospital, government or private. The inclusion of Private hospitals will reduce the burden on public sector hospitals and this will result in an inevitable improvement of quality.
The implementation on this scheme has been started. In the first phase of the project, Sehat Insaf Card are introduced in 23 districts however the project will soon be extended to all 36 districts of Punjab. The distribution of Sehat Insaf Card under the Sehat Sahulat Program is a great initiative. Pakistan has not seen such schemes at this scale.The Sehat Insaf Card will empower the poor and neglected strata of the society. Now people with low incomes won’t be deprived of treatment.
The facility of Sehat Insaf Card is by no means less than the health insurance provided in countries like America and the UK. Very much like the developed countries, treatment will not be denied to any patients for lack of money. It will be provided by the government. The Sehat Insaf Card scheme is a milestone in the history of Pakistan Federal government has launched Sehat Insaf Card scheme in the country. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had introduced Sehat Insaf Card scheme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province during their last term.
The writer is associated with the Programme Management Unit, Govt of the Punjab
The implementation of health cards garnered widespread success in the province of KP previouslyand now this facility is being provided to the poor population of Punjab also.
The Sehat Insaf Card is going to be a game changer in the health sector of Punjab. It will put an end to the suffering of poor and marginalised people by allowing them to get timely treatment in standard hospital with dignity. The poor people who used to struggle for the treatment of theirdear ones won’t have to beg in front of anyone, no one will have to trade their self-esteem, and no mother will have to sell the assets of home for the treatment of her child. The poor will have equal access to the health facilities.
With a sense of security, people will have a peace of mind that the well-being of their families is very well taken care of. Healthy people will shape a healthy society which will boost financial and social activities in the homeland. The country will progress according to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision. Imran Khan is optimistic about gaining Pakistan a dignified place in the comity of nations. He envisionsa new Pakistan where justice is for all, where health is for all. A Pakistan liberated from poverty, disease, unemployment and illiteracy.
Let us keep our fingers crossed that one day Pakistan will achieve the dream of quality healthcare for all. Sehat Insaf Card is only the first leap, albeit giant one, towards this goal.