“We request you to adopt and implement Ayushman Bharat…across Odisha helping the country in progressively achieving universal health coverage and strengthening our commitment towards a healthy India,” twelve lawmakers hailing from the state wrote to Patnaik in a letter. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his five visits to the State over [the] past nine months had never missed an opportunity to request your support in enrolling Odisha for reaping the benefits of the Ayushman Bharat programme.”
More than sixty lakh families could be beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat if implemented in Odisha, reports claim. However, the state government has been reluctant to implement the initiative, instead favouring its own Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY). Under the BSKY, universal healthcare is provided in government-run facilities and cashless cover of Rs 5 lakh is granted to seventy lakh socioeconomically vulnerable families in public and empanelled private institutions, which is reimbursed by a public trust.
In June, it was reported that Odisha was on the verge of implementing Ayushman Bharat amidst talks with the central government. This followed exhortations from Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan to states yet to implement Ayushman Bharat, including Odisha, to do so. Vardhan both wrote and spoke personally with CM Patnaik. “It is important that the benefits of Ayushman Bharat should reach all deprived and vulnerable people in the country,” the Health Minister stated at the time. “I will make all efforts to convince the remaining states and UT to bring the benefits of the scheme to their people and ensure that no eligible person is deprived of these benefits.”
However, implementation of Ayushman Bharat in Odisha did not materialise. Later in the month, the state government asserted the superiority of the BSKY. “The Rs 5 lakh health assistance to seventy lakh families, or 3.5 crore people, under the BSKY will benefit more than the 61 lakh families covered under the central government programme,” argued state health minister Pratap Jena. “Signing up for the Ayushman Bharat mission would deprive nine lakh families from free health services.”