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Ayushman Bharat Took Away My Son, Left Me on the Road: Beneficiary

Pankaj Kumar, 17, was declared ineligible to avail of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme because he was under AB-PMJAY.

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Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Camera: Umesh Kumar Ray

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A 17-year-old resident of Bihar’s Vaishali district, Pankaj Kumar, succumbed to a year-long long illness caused by a blood disorder on 20 January. He, along with his family, was enrolled under the flagship Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana Scheme, and was told the scheme does not cover the bone marrow transplant he required.

Pankaj was eligible for the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN) scheme as well, which not only covered the illness – aplastic anemia – but also the Rs 12 lakh cost of treatment. RAN offers financial assistance up to Rs 15 lakh to patients below poverty line.

Pankaj was, however, declared ineligible for treatment under RAN as he was already enrolled under the AB-PMJAY scheme.

“They say that the poor will benefit from Ayushman Bharat. Instead, we lost our son, we lost everything, we are ruined and on the road now because of Ayushman Bharat,” Pankaj’s father, Vishwanath Kumar, told The Quint at his home in Bihar.

Pankaj Kumar, 17, was declared ineligible to avail of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme because he was under AB-PMJAY.
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Pankaj Kumar, 17, was declared ineligible to avail of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme because he was under AB-PMJAY.

‘Sold Off Land, in Debt Now’

Vishwanath Kumar told us that since Ayushman Bharat covers neither the treatment nor provides financial aid, he was forced to sell off the only piece of land he owned – four cottahs or about 2,800 sq ft – for Rs 8 lakh. Further, he took loans of Rs 4 lakh to raise money for his son’s treatment.

The official website of the AB-PMJAY scheme, which is administered by National Health Authority, specifically mentions that the scheme aims to prevent people from falling into debt.

According to the AB-PMJAY website, one of the ‘key features’ of the scheme is to “help reduce catastrophic expenditure for hospitalizations, which pushes 6 crore people into poverty each year, and will help mitigate the financial risk arising out of catastrophic health episodes”.

Now in debt and staring at poverty, Kumar and his wife, Sonia, earn Rs 100 to Rs 500 per day by working as labourers in New Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi area.

Pankaj Kumar, 17, was declared ineligible to avail of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme because he was under AB-PMJAY.

Kumar told The Quint that he found out from doctors at AIIMS, New Delhi, that the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme not only covers his son’s illness but also has a larger financial assistance corpus of Rs 15 lakh as compared to AB-PMJAY’s Rs 5-lakh limit.

“The doctors told me that the treatment could’ve been done under RAN scheme but got blocked because of Ayushman Bharat,” he added.
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‘Appeal to Government to Save Us’

Showing The Quint around his house, Kumar pointed out the poor condition of his thatched-roof home. He said he has been unable to repair it because all his money went into his son’s treatment.

“Neither could we do anything nor do we have anything left. Now, our prayer to the government is to help us out,” Kumar told The Quint.

Pankaj Kumar, 17, was declared ineligible to avail of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme because he was under AB-PMJAY.
The entrance to Kumar’s thatched roof house in Bihar’s Ababakarpur Village.
(Image: The Quint)

Patients Can Now Transfer From AB-PMJAY to RAN Scheme: Officials

The Quint spoke with senior officials at National Health Authority, which governs the AB-PMJAY scheme.

“This issue of not being able to transfer has now been resolved. Patients will be eligible to get treatment under Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi soon,” said a senior official.

The Quint also reached out to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and AIIMS, New Delhi, for their comments. The story will be updated as and when they respond.

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