MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
As we have regularly mentioned in these pages, in countries like ours where there is no social security net, sickness can put immense pressure on families, driving some into poverty. However, certain states in south India are offering relief to the poor through a scheme called Arogyasri.
A public-private partnership, Arogyasri has been targeting those who live below the poverty line (BPL) and providing them with quality medical care for catastrophic illnesses like heart attacks, traumatic injuries, chemotherapy, and radiation for cancer etc.
For example there is a set fee that the government insurance will pay for common cardiovascular procedures such as angioplasty and stent placement to pacemaker implantation to coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG). Follow-up costs are also included in this scheme. The scheme provides Rs 200,000 for each family per year plus an additional Rs 50,000 on recommendation of a technical committee set up by the scheme. Other states in India are also trying to simulate this successful program from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka to deal with escalating health costs.
Unfortunately in Nepal, people have to be financially well-off or politically well-connected to be able to pay when a family member becomes severely ill. Ordinary Nepalis have to either borrow money from commercial banks and loan sharks at exorbitantly high interest rates, or sell off their lands, cattle, and jewellery to pay medical bills.
While one segment of society is buried under debt and forced into wretched lives with no health insurance, the other has access to the latest equipment, a wide range of experts, and medical care befitting royalty. Clearly the Nepali government, industrialists, and perhaps even donor agencies need to narrow this gap and start thinking of building a scheme similar to Arogyasri and replicating its success here.