Poor suffer as private hospitals 'dishonour' Golden Card

Representational Photo

When the family members of Nazir Ahmed Gojri (name changed), a labourer from Sonamarg area were told by the doctor that he needs an emergency abdominal surgery, they thought the Golden Card would prove helpful.

The Golden Card issued under SEHAT Scheme of J&K Government promises a health emergency would not turn into a catastrophe for the poor. However, in just a day, the family realized that the promise was “conditional”.

A private practitioner suggested to the family that he be taken to a private facility for immediate treatment and they should avoid the crowds that could expose the frail Gojri to infections. A taxi was hired for Rs 2000 and the patient was taken to a prominent private hospital in Srinagar. At the reception, when the admission file was handed over to Ishfaq Hussain, Gojri’s son, he handed over his Golden Card to the cashier there but it was “dishonoured”. Soon he found himself out of the hospital premises along with father in a wheelchair. He headed to another private facility on Srinagar outskirts, almost desolate. He was told that there is no vacant bed in the hospital and Gojri could not be admitted. He had no other option but to queue up at a Government Hospital and fight for a bed, this time due to real space constraint.

Both the private hospitals, Hussain said, were reluctant to admit the patient due to his staking claim for benefits under SEHAT Scheme. The scheme is a recently rolled out health insurance program of J&K Government that claims to be an upscale of the PM Jan Aragya Yojana of Government of India. Under the program, a family is entitled to get cashless treatment up to Rs 5 lakh at any of the 229 empanelled hospitals.

While the list of hospitals empanelled to provide cashless treatment to patients with Golden Card is set to expand, poor patients in Kashmir are often turned away from private hospitals citing ‘delay in payment by Government’.

Government recently said that in the first two months of its launch, 22000 free and cashless treatments have been provided to eligible beneficiaries under the scheme, including 450 outside J&K.

Financial Commissioner Health and Medical Education, Atal Dullo denied any delay in payment to the private hospitals. “An insurance agency is responsible for the payments and in the past two years, since the Ayushman Bharat scheme is running here, we have had no complaints regarding payments,” he said.

He said the Government was in the process of expanding the list of private hospitals where Golden Cards could be used by the people. “We have received applications from a number of hospitals and directions have been issued to the concerned officials to verify the required credentials before we include these facilities under the SEHAT Scheme hospitals,” he said.

The expansion, he said, would expand the choices for patients.