New Delhi: A year after the rollout of Ayushman Bharat, the Centre is struggling to close the last mile gap as low awareness levels are proving to be a major hindrance in states like Bihar and Haryana while Tamil Nadu has shown positive results, according to a survey conducted by the National Health Authority.

The survey has revealed that in Bihar and Haryana the awareness level about Ayushman Bharat was less than 20%. After a major acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) outbreak, which claimed over 140 lives in Bihar, the survey showed that only 10-15% of the people knew about the scheme, which provides cashless secondary and tertiary care in empanelled government and private hospitals worth Rs 5 lakh annually to poor and vulnerable families.

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When the scheme was rolled out in September 2018, a two-page letter by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sent to 10.74 crore identified beneficiary families to explain the scheme and its benefits. According to sources, the surveyors tracked down beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat in Bihar and asked if they had received the letter from PM . “We found that letters had reached (targeted beneficiaries), but many of them in Bihar had not even opened the envelopes… because they couldn’t read. In many cases even their beneficiary cards received in post remained unopened. They said they knew it entitled them to something but they could not explain what that was,” a senior official involved in the survey told ET.

In Haryana, the awareness levels were slightly better but were still less than 20%. The results in Bihar were stark especially since NHA found that at the peak of AES outbreak, before the state government declared free treatment for AES patients, only 36 patients had availed of Ayushman Bharat scheme.

National Health Authority CEO Dr Indu Bhushan said, “After a year of implementation we feel that the biggest challenge before us is the low awareness level about Ayushman Bharat. We need to take the scheme to the last mile. Our survey also suggests that beneficiaries do not know how they can avail of the scheme. This needs to be worked upon.”

“We have seen that awareness levels in brownfield states (where there was already a state health insurance scheme in place) are better than greenfield states like Bihar and Haryana (where no scheme before Ayushman Bharat was in place),” Bhushan said.





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