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    What Ails the Enrolment and Distribution of Ayushman Bharat Cards?

    GovernanceE-governanceWhat Ails the Enrolment and Distribution of Ayushman Bharat...
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    What Ails the Enrolment and Distribution of Ayushman Bharat Cards?

    A person named “Poonam Kumari” in Hindi script might be registered as “Punam Kumari” in Roman script (English). Such variations can create confusion during verification, potentially resulting in delays or rejections in the Ayushman card application process.

    By Bhumi Bharti

    Studying the distribution of the Ayushman Bharat Mukhyamantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-MMJAY) Card in eight villages of Hazaribagh gives clues to why all eligible persons have not been covered under the programme.

    A survey among 144 households across eight randomly selected villages of Hazaribagh helps understand the challenges faced by villagers in accessing this entitlement.

    A little less than half (42 per cent) of the respondents have AB-MMJAY Cards. 58 per cent of the people interviewed still did not have the cards.

    The findings underscore the importance of targeted interventions and awareness campaigns to ensure equitable healthcare access for underserved populations. Some of the notable challenges are as under:

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    Spelling discrepancies

    A significant challenge encountered by individuals seeking Ayushman cards is the presence of discrepancies in their names, especially when the names are written in both Hindi and English. As names on ration cards are written in hindi while names on Aadhaar card is written on English – this can lead to confusion and administrative hurdles during the application process. In India, names may be written differently in Hindi script and Roman script (used for English), causing potential mismatches in official documents.

    For instance, a person named “Poonam Kumari” in Hindi script might be registered as “Punam Kumari” in Roman script (English). Such variations can create confusion during verification, potentially resulting in delays or rejections in the Ayushman card application process.

    Ration Card Mandatory

    Another significant obstacle faced by individuals when applying for Ayushman cards is the mandatory requirement of a ration card. The ration card is often considered a crucial document to establish an individual’s eligibility for various government welfare programs, including the Ayushman Bharat scheme. Ration cards serve as an indicator of an individual’s economic status and their inclusion in the “below poverty line” category.

    However, obtaining a ration card can be a complex and time-consuming process. The bureaucratic red tape, documentation requirements, and verification procedures involved can make it particularly challenging for marginalized communities and individuals in economically disadvantaged areas. This complexity can hinder their access to essential healthcare benefits under the Ayushman Bharat scheme.

    Aadhaar Card updation issues

    Aadhaar linkage is often a mandatory requirement for various government programmes, including Ayushman Bharat. Beneficiaries are required to link their Aadhaar cards to avail themselves of the benefits of the scheme. However, issues may arise when individuals need to update their Aadhaar details.

    Authentication failures due to fingerprint mismatches or incomplete Aadhaar updates can prevent individuals from obtaining an Ayushman card or receiving timely medical treatment. This not only affects their healthcare but also hinders the effectiveness of the Ayushman Bharat program in delivering healthcare services to those in need. This is the main reason why people of age group between 0-18 does not have Ayushman Card.

    Problem faced while using the card

    Another critical finding reveals that approximately 20 per cent of the surveyed population above the age of 40 face challenges due to name mismatches. These mismatches pertain to variations in names, primarily concerning discrepancies between the Aadhaar card and other official documents. These challenges can create hurdles in the Ayushman card application process for this age group.

    Common diseases not covered: Common ailments like flu, indigestion often lead to hospitalization, individuals may need to bear the expenses for doctor consultations, medications, diagnostic tests, and minor treatments themselves. This can lead to out-of-pocket healthcare costs that are not covered by the scheme.

    Misconceptions: Some individuals may have misconceptions about the scope of coverage under Ayushman Bharat, assuming that it will cover all their healthcare needs. It can lead confusion when they discover that common ailments are not covered.

    Drawback

    One significant drawback in the context of the Ayushman Bharat scheme is the misuse of ration cards as a criterion for eligibility. While ration cards have traditionally been used as a means to identify individuals below the poverty line and provide them with subsidized food and essential commodities, the criteria for obtaining ration cards have sometimes been loosely enforced. This laxity has led to a situation where a substantial number of individuals who do not fall within the “below poverty line” category possess ration cards.

    This issue also has direct implications for access to Ayushman cards. Since ration cards are often used as a mandatory eligibility criterion for Ayushman cards, individuals who possess ration cards without truly needing them may also have access to healthcare benefits under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, while the genuinely needy may be left out

    The process of revising criteria for obtaining ration cards can be challenging and bureaucratic. It may involve revisiting and updating the income and asset criteria, which can be a lengthy and complex task.

    Simplifying Documentation: Streamlining the application and documentation process for Ayushman cards will ensure that minor discrepancies in names do not become barriers to access;

    Alternative Eligibility Criteria: Explore alternative eligibility criteria beyond the ration card to include individuals who may fall through the cracks due to administrative challenges;

    Awareness Campaigns: Conduct awareness campaigns to educate eligible individuals on the importance of Ayushman cards and assist them in navigating the application process

    Alternative Verification Methods: Implement alternative verification methods, such as photo identification or mobile-based authentication, to ensure that beneficiaries are not denied healthcare services due to biometric issues or Aadhaar-related challenges.

    Bhumi Bharti is studying B. Com (Hons) at A.N. College, Patna. This piece has been extracted from the internship report submitted by the author as part of the Abhijit Sen Rural Internship programme of National Foundation for India (NFI).

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