Whilst Ayushman Bharat has been heralded as a boon for patients below the poverty line who struggle to access healthcare, corruption continues to dog the scheme. To counteract Ayushman Bharat corruption, stringent action will be taken against those found to engage in corrupt practices during their administration of the initiative.
Fraud by hospitals has been a significant issue ever since the scheme rolled out in September last year. 18,694 hospitals are empanelled under the scheme, the majority of which belong to the private sector. However, even as their participation has enabled patients to make savings of crores of rupees in medical expenses, it also led to crores of rupees secreting from the scheme into the palms of fraudulent facilities and medicos.
Almost 3,000 suspicious cases have been identified, according to a recent report in MoneyControl. Rs 2.29 crore has been recouped by the National Health Authority (NHA), the senior body responsible for implementing the programme. All told, the suspicious cases run up a cost of Rs 4.5 crore.
As previously reported by Health Issues India, one response tabled by authorities to Ayushman Bharat corruption has been to name and shame hospitals implicated. “As part of the government’s zero-tolerance towards corruption,” Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said earlier this year, “names of 111 hospitals, which have been de-empanelled…have been put up on the official website of the AB-PMJAY [Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana] as a part of our ‘name and shame’ policy.”
As of August, 338 hospitals were served with show-cause notices or de-empanelled from providing services under Ayushman Bharat according to the MoneyControl report. Hospitals caught engaging in corrupt practice in the course of implementing Ayushman Bharat will also be prohibited from participation in any government-run scheme going forward.
To address Ayushman Bharat corruption, a National Anti-Fraud Unit (NAFU) and State Anti-Fraud Units (SAFU) will be established by the NHA and provisions will be made in regulations to allow members of the public to blow the whistle on instances of corruption.
“We are taking stern action against such fraudsters and have filed criminal cases and FIRs [first incident reports] in some cases,” said NHA chief executive officer Dr Indu Bhushan earlier this year.