Bill Gates
Bill Gates during his meeting with PM Narendra Modi in New Delhi last monthTwitter

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the central government earned copious praise from tech billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates over India's landmark National Health Protection Scheme, Ayushman Bharat.

At the historic launch of the health protection scheme in September Modi had said it would provide health cover of Rs 500,000 for more than 50 crore of poor people in the country.

"Congratulations to the Indian government on the first 100 days of @AyushmanNHA. It's great to see how many people have been reached by the program so far. @PMOIndia" Gates tweeted.

Gates' remarks followed the government's announcement that the scheme benefited as many as 6.85 lakh people within 100 days of the launch.

"In just first 100 days of #AyushmanBharat, 685000 beneficiaries availed free health care & the number is rising rapidly," Union Health Minister JP Nadda said earlier.

Kolkata, IndiaA doctor examines a dengue fever patient at a government hospital in Kolkata, India, October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri
Kolkata, India A doctor examines a dengue fever patient at a government hospital in Kolkata, India, October 31, 2017. [Representational Image]Reuters

Gates isn't the first one from abroad to endorse India's best bid, so far, at universal healthcare. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this month that Ayushman Bharat was an outcome of visionary leadership.

"In its first 100 days, #India''s ambitious #AyushmanBharat scheme has provided free care for almost 700,000 people. I applaud Prime Minister @narendramodi and Health Minister @JPNadda for their visionary leadership for #HealthForAll (sic)," Ghebreyesus said in a tweet.

Modi announced the intent to launch the mega scheme during his Independence Day address at the Red Fort last year. Dubbed 'Modicare' the scheme was touted to be the world's largest public healthcare scheme.

Focus on rural India

The scheme envisaged providing a coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh to every vulnerable family per year for post and pre-hospitalisation expenses.

As per the scheme, as many as 10 crore deserving families would be selected on the basis of the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC).

The government said the scheme will ensure timely treatment, patient satisfaction, improvement in productivity and efficiency and improved health outcomes. Out of the 10 crore families that will benefit, as many as 8 crore are from the rural belts of the country, hitherto largely neglected.

Ayushman Bharat, also known as Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), was launched on September 25 last year. It was reported that as many as 1,000 people availed of the benefit of the scheme within 24 hours of the launch. The majority of the people who got the benefits were from Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.