Centre’s Insurance Scheme for Healthcare Workers Covers Death, Not Treatment Costs
On March 26, the Union finance ministry announced a special insurance scheme — Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package — for healthcare workers helping tackle the pandemic.
The scheme is effective as of March 30, and will be applicable to everyone availing it, for 90 days. It includes fifty lakhs compensation for all health professionals, “In case of accidental death or death due to complications arising from accidentally contracting Covid-19.”
However, in the days that followed, New India Assurance, the company assigned with implementing the scheme, clarified the coverage as, “death due to complications arising out of accidentally contracting Covid19 pandemic disease,” while treating and attending to patients, Scroll reported.
The scheme does not include provisions for treatment should healthcare workers fall ill while attending to Covid19 patients or be needed to be hospitalized.
This is problematic on many levels. First, a big chunk of India’s healthforce is not covered by existing insurance schemes or institutional health covers that would result in free or subsidized treatment costs, said Federation of Resident Doctors’ Associations (FORDA) president, Dr. Shivaji Dev Barman to Hindustan Times.
“If nurses get Covid-19 and require hospitalisation in a private hospital, it will devastate them economically,” said Jibin TC, the president of the United Nurses Association in Maharashtra to Scroll. He highlighted most mid-level nurses, even from private hospitals earn between Rs 11,000 and Rs 13,000, making it impossible for them to afford their own treatment. “The government should ensure all treatment anywhere is free,” TC added.
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This becomes even more important considering India’s healthcare workers are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment or PPEs. In some places, Indian doctors are using helmets in place of masks and raincoats to compensate for the lack of coveralls. There have also been reports about landlords forcing them to evict homes or having to sleep on hospital floors.
As of April 2, Scroll reported, at least 52 doctors, nurses and cleaners had tested positive due to contact at work.
With a shortage of protective gear, healthcare workers are risking their own lives to save others’, making it even more important for the Centre to realize that what they really need is free health coverage.