Sikkim’s universal health insurance launch on hold
The much-touted Sikkim Krantikari Morcha government’s universal health insurance scheme, Su-Swastha Yojana, which was to have formally rolled out from Friday, was suspended at the eleventh hour on Wednesday without assigning any reason.
The two-and-a-half year old government of chief minister P. S. Tamang (Golay) had promoted the insurance scheme as its flagship programme that sought to provide health coverage to the entire population beginning first with the state government employees and their families by paying just Rs 200 per head every month as premium.
However, two days before its formal rollout, the state finance department came out with a notification suspending the scheme.
“The deduction of Rs 200 per month for self and family members of the Sikkim Government employees under Su-Swastha Yojana vide above notification is suspended till further order,” said the notification signed by V. B. Pathak, the additional chief secretary charge-of the finance department.
S. D. Dhakal, the secretary in the chief minister’s office, had earlier in the month said a total of 56,280 beneficiaries had enrolled under the scheme that was to have come into effect from October 1.
“The deductions which have already been made from the salaries of the Government employees for the month of September, 2021 shall be refunded,” said the finance department notification.
Health department officials were not willing to offer any reason for the last-minute suspension of the scheme, fuelling speculation that there was something amiss somewhere and drawing the flak of the Opposition. “Any policy which generally should be and needs to be in the interest of people at large should be thoroughly examined before being notified. Now as per your information, it has been suspended. It simply reflects as to how serious this government is,” said K. T. Gyaltsen, a senior leader of the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF).
During the budget session of the Sikkim Assembly earlier in June, Golay had said the health insurance coverage for the 38,000-odd permanent government employees under the Su-Swastha Yojana would be extended in a phase-wise manner to eventually cover the entire population of approximately 6.50 lakh in the state.
The scheme aims to provide enrolled employees with access to qualitative cashless healthcare service at about 400 empanelled hospitals across the country. Under the scheme, the beneficiaries — employees and five of their family members — would be eligible for an insurance cover of up to Rs 20 lakh against payment of monthly premium of Rs 200 per head per month.