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Ayushman Bharat signs up with Uber, finds 21 others for insurance to staff

Surajeet Das Gupta/New Delhi 01 Mar 19 | 02:25 AM

Illustration by Binay Sinha

They are out there. They are eligible. They could definitely benefit. But who are they and how can they be tracked down in urban jungles? For Ayushman Bharat, the ambitious national health protection scheme,  it has been a challenge to identify urban candidates, but now it’s hit upon the idea of tapping into the huge employee base of companies like Amazon, Walmart-owned Flipkart, Uber and the like to reach those who qualify for its Rs 500,000 per annum health cover.

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Ayushman Bharat has identified a total of 21 potential private companies, many of them funded by foreign investors, for negotiations to be able to access their eligible employees and get them to register. As a first move, it has signed up with Uber India to identify its driver-partners so that it can offer them the medical cover, provided they fulfil the income and profession criteria. Uber India Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pradeep Parameswaran reckons that 40 per cent of its driver-partners will be eligible for the scheme’s health card.

 “Our plan is to reach 500 million people across the country," said Indu Bhushan, CEO, Ayushman Bharat . “Our data and quality of reach in urban areas is not as good as in rural areas. The last mile is always a challenge for us. So if the pilot with Uber succeeds, we are looking at similar tie-ups with private sector companies and we have identified about 21 potential partners like this. They have a large number of employees who fit in to our criterion of eligibility."

According to estimates, these firms have over 3 million workers. Apart from drivers, they employ delivery boys and those who work in the warehouses, to name only some. If all of them are eligible, it would mean that the Ayushman scheme would be able to reach out to about 15 million people, assuming an average family size of five.

Since its launch in September, Ayushman Bharat has issued 20 million cards and has set an ambitious target to hit another 30 million within the next three months.  Bhushan says the target is to ramp up the number of beneficiaries registering under the scheme from around 400,000 a month to a million.

Uber India is also planning to use its Partner Seva Kendras (currently used by drivers whenever they need any assistance) in 37 cities to function as ‘help centres’ for all employees who are eligible for the Ayushman Bharat scheme. At these centres, staff will help driver-partners fill out the forms with the relevant documents to get the health card.   Although some 15,000 hospitals are already on board, Bhushan is working on targeting India’s top 200 hospitals so that they are also accredited under Ayushman Bharat. 

This has been something of a challenge because many hospitals have complained about the low rates offered for various ailments. 

Bhushan said that only 30 per cent of the hospitals in this list, which includes Apollo and Medanta, have joined the scheme. Talks are underway to persuade others to join. When that is out of the way, the plan is to concentrate on quality of service rather than just numbers.

In terms of those who have been treated, the government has disbursed Rs 1,800 crore to 1.3 million patients.

PM-JAY UPDATE

As of Feb 27

14,708

Hospitals empanelled

1.35 mn

Beneficiaries admitted

20.5 mn

Health cards issued

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