PM initiates universal healthcare scheme


By Ali Imran

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday launched the Naya Pakistan Qaumi Sehat Card scheme to provide health insurance to families across Punjab, Islama bad, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Tharparkar.
The scheme will cost the government Rs450 billion and will provide free medical treatment to the people at government and private hospitals. Each family can avail treatment worth Rs1 million annually.
Addressing the ceremony in Islamabad, PM Imran said private and government hospitals will no longer have to pay premium for universal health coverage and both private and public hospitals will offer treatment to the people.
“It is a very ambitious project,” Imran said, adding that the rich and the poor will both have free healthcare for the first time in the country.
The premier reiterated that the government health sector in Pakistan deteriorated over time as a result of ‘elite capture’.
“Doctors refused to go to remote hospitals either that deprived the people of rural areas of basic health necessities,” he added. The health care system in Pakistan only catered to the rich, he said, adding that the divide between the poor and rich continued to increase since Pakistan’s creation.
The ruling elite of Pakistan never bothered to create a welfare state, Imran said while criticising previous governments.
Speaking about healthcare insurance, he said this was the “defining moment in the history of Pakistan” that would carve the country’s path to greatness and added that the state owes its security to its people.
Imran also lauded Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, saying without the Punjab government’s cooperation, the federal government could not have launched the project. “Punjab is establishing five mother and child care hospitals to mitigate the high mortality rate of Pakistan,” he added.
“This is not just a health card but a healthcare system,” the premier said, adding the introduction of the health card scheme would put pressure on government hospitals to raise their standards. “If they fail to do so, then people would opt for private hospitals and the government hospitals will not be able to generate revenue,” Imran added.
The prime minister said the government will also facilitate private hospitals to venture into rural areas. “We will provide land on cheap rates to private hospitals and also remove duties on medical equipment in a bid to facilitate them,” he said, adding that this is just the beginning and the next step will be education.
Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said 56 hospitals had been enlisted in the province to provide medical insurance facilities in 36 districts. He said the entire population of Punjab would get medical insurance by March 31.