I recently came to know of a health services scheme started by the late Andhra Pradesh CM Dr Y S R Reddy. Initially introduced on a trial basis in a few poverty ridden districts in the state and later on after it proved to be a resounding success, the scheme was extended to cover the entire state. The Rajiv Arogya Sri came into effect in April 2007. .It provides financial protection and the means to improve the health status of families living Below the Poverty Line for treatment of all the serious ailments. Under the scheme all white card holders(those deemed BPL) were entitled to free medical treatment at any of the corporate hospitals participating in the scheme. And to their credit quite a few of the big corporate names in the state are part of the scheme.
Now I have seen first hand how this scheme is transforming the access these poor people have to quality health care and in the process also their lives. The scheme allows anyone with a white card to simply walk in to a hospital and check if his/her symptoms match the diagnoses in a pre-approved government checklist. If it does, from then on they are eligible for the best care that the hospital can provide including cost of stay and food expenses without having to pay anything at all from their pockets. This is the sort of manna from heaven scheme that we hear of usually in oil rich Arab nations (although only for Arab nationals). They can afford it. But to actually try and implement it in an Indian state deserves special recognition of the man's intent to serve his people. Now I don't know anything else about YSR's or Andhra's politics but it probably helped that YSR was a doctor himself and because of that he probably understood better than most politicians, the difficulties India's poor face with regards to health care.
Now this is India after all and however noble the scheme, we will find ways to corrupt it. Like so with Arogya Sri. Some of the white card holders are simply too well off to fall in that unfortunate category called BPL, while some hospitals and associated health personnel are trying to make a fast buck by conning the poor patients into paying for services that they should be getting for free. But all things considered as far as a Government initiative is concerned schemes like Arogya Sri should be supported and lauded. Politicians at all levels should take note of the genuine outpouring of grief that followed YSR's untimely and tragic death recently. If you want to win elections and etch your name in history, dreaming up schemes like Arogya Sri is the better way to go about it, than building giant statues of yourself at public expense. Dr Y S R is no more but here's hoping that there are more like him because India's poor really need them.