Vijayawada: Within days of the COVID-19 outbreak hitting the state, Andhra Pradesh became the first in the country to include COVID-19 in the list of illnesses covered under the state's flagship healthcare scheme Arogya Sri. As of 22 April, 1,00,033 COVID-19 patients have received free treatment in various private hospitals across the state under this scheme.
The government has spent over Rs. 309 crore on bills pertaining to these individuals. It is important to note that free treatment is being extended at all government hospitals and private hospitals taken over by the government due to the pandemic, irrespective of whether the individual is eligible under Arogya Sri. The numbers stated above pertain only to those individuals who chose to get treated in a private hospital and were eligible under the scheme.
Under this scheme, all individuals possessing an 'Arogya Sri' card can avail free healthcare services at listed hospitals if the bill exceeds Rs. 1,000.
To put the impact of this scheme into perspective, one would have to look at a couple of case studies. For instance, the government approved a mammoth sum of Rs. 5,87,534 towards the medical bills of 49-year-old Ramanaiah Manda, a resident of Nellore district, who availed free treatment at the Apollo Speciality Hospitals. Similarly, a sum of Rs. 4,68,312 was approved towards the bills of 58-year-old Sheikh Nazeer.
Considering the fact that one's family income should be below Rs. 5 lakh per annum in order to be eligible for this scheme, one can only imagine how the respective families would be subjected to immense financial turmoil if they had had to spend their entire annual income on the treatment of one of the family members had the government not paid their bills.
The same story repeats itself in each district of Andhra Pradesh as the scheme continues to save lives of the poor and the downtrodden, apart from ensuring that medical hills do not push them deeper into a debt trap.