Naya Pakistan Sehat Card: A Giant Step Toward Universal Healthcare
Prime Minister Imran Khan launched Sehat Card in Punjab, Pakistan 's largest province, on International Universal Healthcare Day 2021. This is essentially a government-funded health insurance program run by insurance companies to cover up to one million rupees worth of care each year at government certified public and private clinics and hospitals. It represents a major expansion of this program which was first introduced in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. It is now available to residents of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan, Azad Kashmir, and Tharparkar district in Sindh under the Sehat Sahulat Program.
|Universal Healthcare Map. Source: World Population Review|
Speaking at the launch event in Lahore, Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “This is a landmark. This is a defining moment towards our course to make Pakistan a welfare state.” “This is not (just) a health insurance (but) rather a health system. Now (the) private sector will build hospitals even in villages where the basic health units remain vacant as no doctor desires to be posted there. Now (the) private sector will come and (the) poorest of the poor will get free treatment,” he added.
|Pakistan Sehat Card|
Sehat card was first introduced in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) by Taimur Jhagra, a former McKinsey consultant who now holds both the health and finance ministry portfolios in the province. Talking with The Telegraph newspaper reporters, he said: “It shows us we can do big things in this country in a short amount of time". He went on: “It's giving quality access to those that tend to be viewed by many as second class citizens and deserving of only second class facilities.”
The Sehat Card program will fund both public and private healthcare, Mr. Jhagra said. “We are not funding the private sector, we are funding health care for our citizens, wherever they want.,” he said. The Telegraph has spoken with patients using the program in KP. They say it has delivered them from the worry of medical debt, where serious illness often means having to sell land or livestock, or take out loans, to pay medical bills.
|Monthly Usage of Sehat Card in KP. Source: Government of KP|
Sehat card is being widely used in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province with a population of over 30 million. There is data available to understand how the program is being funded. Here's an excerpt of The Telegraph story on it: "Treatment is provided through approved public or private hospitals and the comparatively low cost of healthcare in Pakistan has meant the state-owned insurance provider has been able to provide cover at around £3 ($3.97) per head. The card is currently costing 22bn rupees (£93m or $123m) out of a total health budget in the province of 146bn rupees (£620m or $820m)"
The final hold-out in Pakistan is Sindh province with its nearly 50 million people. Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged Sindh's ruling party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), to launch Sehat Card and other social sector programs in Sindh as well.
|Ehsaas Satisfaction Survey. Source: Gallup|
Ehsaas Social Welfare Program:
Ehsaas Program was established by Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019. Aimed at helping the poor and the needy, it has several elements ranging from cash hand-outs and education to health and nutrition.
A recent survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan confirms that the program is very popular among the people. Nearly 3 out of 4 Pakistanis (76%) have a good opinion about the Ehsaas program. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) Pakistanis who have received assistance from the program are satisfied with the amount of money received. 90% of Pakistanis believe that the program should be expanded to include more people, according to the survey.
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