Arun Jaitley
Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley.Reuters

In his Budget speech on Thursday, February 1, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the National Health Insurance scheme with an ambitious plan to bring 10 crore vulnerable families under medical insurance cover. It was one of the major pro-poor proposals in the budget.

But many people are sceptical about the scheme. They feel no serious allocation was made in the budget for the scheme. Some of them think that the scheme would benefit only insurance companies.

Touted as the world's largest government-funded healthcare programme, the scheme proposes to provide health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per family a year. It is expected to cover 10 crore poor families. The proposal was widely welcomed and people across the country are waiting for clarity on the scheme now. 

However, many politicians and economists are highly critical of the scheme and have termed it  "jumlanomics".

In the budget, Arun Jaitley announced an allocation of Rs 2,000 crore for the health insurance scheme. But some experts have pointed out that the allocation is too small, given its ambitious purview. If 1 percent of the 10 crore families claimed the full health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh, the total fund required would be Rs 50,000 crore, they pointed out.  

On the other hand, some others said the scheme would only serve to fill the coffers of insurance companies. To prove their point, they pointed to the allocation of Rs 22,437 crore as the premium to insurance companies as a part of the PM Fasal Bima Yojana (crop insurance) in the 2016-17 period. But the total insurance claimed by the farmers under the scheme was just Rs 8,087.23 crore. The critics predict that the new health insurance scheme would also go the Fasal Bima Yojana way.

Here are some comments by the critics of the scheme:

Shashi Tharoor, Congress leader : One good thing in #Budget2018 is the health insurance scheme to cover 500 million Indians. But the budget figures show no serious allocation for it, &the Fasal Bima Yojana has already proved a boon for insurance companies more than the insured. Will it prove another #jumla?

Jayaprakash Narayan, Lok Satta founder: #Budget2018 The big, audacious goal is health coverage up to ₹5lakh/family to 10 cr families. Good that some serious steps are afoot in healthcare. But focus on tertiary care & insurance without primary care & GP system will escalate costs & health will not improve much.

Dr Arvind Mayaram, Former finance secretary : Universal health insurance through private hospitals has not worked for the poor anywhere. Biggest beneficiaries are the private hospitals and insurance companies. There is no substitute for public health care. More money should have been pumped to strengthen it.

 Shekhar Gupta, journalist: Welcome new hospitalisation insurance scheme at such mass level. Since most of the insured will go to pvt hospitals, insurance third party agents (TPAs) will bring some check on overs-charging.

 JS Malhi: Health insurance of 5laks fr 50 crore ppl wid no outlay&no/little rural healthCare centres just shooting in d air/biggest zumla fr votes.Wid 4 yrs of all timeLow crude prices;still deficit to 3.3%.Now wid fuel prices being high asking inflation.BJP lost Rajasthan-GE19 not far off

Salman Anees Soz, Development consultant and economic commentator: The PM Fasal Bima Yojana (crop insurance). -premium collected by insurance companies in 2016-17: Rs. Rs 22,437 cr -claims by farmers: Rs 8,087.23 cr Heath insurance for 10 cr families? Wait & watch. #Budget2018

Prashant P. Umrao, Lawyer, writer : Either it is Health Insurance or Corps Insurance, main beneficiaries are Insurance companies not Poor, Farmers. Corporate friendly #Budget2018!

Sid, Lawyer: If all 10 crore people claim Rs 5 lakh health insurance, one would need Rs 5 lakh cr. Even only 10% claim this entire money we would still need Rs 50,000 cr. But somehow Mr Arun Jaitley thinks Rs 2000 cr is enough