Health Policy

ESIC hospital facilities elude BPL families

The government’s much-hyped plan to extend healthcare facilities by Employees State Insurance Corporation hospitals to BPL families covered under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana has gone sour. An ordinance by the labour ministry amending the Employees State Insurance Act to extending the healthcare facilities to BPL families has lapsed and is no longer in effect. The ordinance issued in July last year has expired as it could not be ratified by the Parliament last month. The government can make changes to law through ordinance when the Parliament is not in session. However, it has to be validated by the Parliament within six months, or when the Parliament comes into session before six months. In this case, six months have already passed since the ordinance was issued in July. The amendment could not be passed by the Parliament as it was sent to a Parliamentary Standing Committee. The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 is a social security legislation that provides medical care in case of sickness, maternity, disablement and death due to employment injury to employees drawing wages up to Rs 10,000 per month. RSBY is a scheme that provides health insurance cover up to Rs 30,000, tapped in a smart card given to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. So far, nine lakh smart cards have been issued. The labour ministry had amended the ESI Act after it realised that facilities at the hospitals under ESIC were under-utilised. It issued the Employees’ State Insurance (Amendment) Ordinance, 2008 on July 3, 2008 hoping to extend facilities provided by the vast network of hospitals under ESIC to the unorganised sector workers under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana Scheme, and providing medical care on user charges, wherever the same are under-utilised. ESIC operates 144 hospitals and 1397 dispensaries in the country.

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