Aadhaar not must for cover
New Delhi: The Union health ministry on Thursday said Aadhaar cards were not required for treatment under the National Health Protection Scheme, but guidelines released by the Centre suggest that beneficiaries can seek treatment only once without the 12-digit biometric identity.
The ministry said a notification "being issued" enables implementation agencies to ask beneficiaries for their Aadhaar card to authenticate identity. "In order to authenticate the identity of beneficiaries accurately, the use of Aadhaar card is preferable, but not a must," the ministry said.
The Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission, announced by the Narendra Modi government earlier this year, seeks to provide up to Rs 5 lakh per year for hospitalisation costs to over 10 crore poor and vulnerable households across the country.
"There shall be no denial for want of Aadhaar number," the ministry said. "We will provide services to all eligible beneficiaries with or without Aadhaar card," health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said in a statement.
The guidelines for identification of beneficiaries under the scheme specify that they should bring their Aadhaar card or any other valid government document decided by the state if they do not have Aadhaar cards or ration cards or any other family identification decided by the state.
But the guidelines also say that if a family member does not have an Aadhaar card and the contact point is a location where no treatment is provided, the operator will inform the beneficiary that treatment will be given "only once without an Aadhaar or an Aadhaar enrolment slip".
If the family member does not have an Aadhaar card and the contact point is a hospital or place of treatment, the guidelines say, "a signed declaration is taken from the beneficiary that he does not possess an Aadhaar card and understands that he will need to produce an Aadhaar or an Aadhaar enrolment slip prior to the next treatment".
A senior health official said the guidelines were intended to encourage beneficiaries to obtain Aadhaar cards but no one would be denied treatment if they did not have the cards.
"It is only a measure to encourage Aadhaar - they may be asked about Aadhaar the second time they turn up without the card, but at no point will they be denied treatment because they don't have Aadhaar," the official told The Telegraph.
The ministry said the draft notification provides for managing beneficiaries through a set of alternative identification mechanisms, including voter identification cards or ration cards, among others.
The scheme uses multiple criteria and nature of jobs to determine beneficiaries. In rural areas, for instance, households with "only one room with kuchcha walls and kuchcha roof", or no adult member aged between 16 and 59 years, or landless households, or female-headed households with no adult members aged between 16 and 59 years, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households are among the beneficiaries. Also included are destitutes, manual scavenger families, primitive tribal groups and legally released bonded labourers.
In urban areas, households of street vendors, cobblers, hawkers, sweepers, shop-assistants, delivery assistants, electricians, mechanics, assemblers, washerfolk, chowkidars, drivers, conductors, cart and rickshaw pullers, construction workers and painters, among other such occupations, are among the beneficiaries.