Recently, my paternal uncle was diagnosed with a heart problem. He had four blocks in his coronary arteries and required a Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG), also known as Open Heart Surgery. My uncle was based in a small town called Sringeri, Karnataka. Considering his condition, he was asked to get his surgery done in Bengaluru. Upon consulting several hospitals, we realized CABG is going to cost us anywhere between ₹2.3-2.6 lakhs.
He is the sole earner in his family and he retired six years ago. His savings were meagre, and his source of income could not support the money needed for his medical procedure. Unfortunately, he is not covered by any medical insurance. The medical advice was that the surgery had to be done as soon as possible.
Upon learning about his plight, I went into research mode, fully sceptical about receiving any support from the government. I vaguely remembered reading about a Universal Healthcare Scheme which the Karnataka government wanted to implement from November 1, 2017. However, I was disappointed to learn that the scheme had still not been implemented due to various reasons. But I did stumble upon another healthcare scheme for Above Poverty Line (APL) Ration card holders. This was called the Rajiv Arogya Bhagya (RAB) which was introduced in 2013.
Under RAB, which is designed specifically for APL families, one can access the best private healthcare facilities throughout Karnataka. The advantage of this scheme is that the patient isn’t restricted only to government healthcare facilities. They can receive the best possible treatments through empanelled network private hospitals.
We chose to get treated at Aster Cauvery Medical Institute (one of the network hospitals for this scheme) by a top cardiologist. The hospital charges about ₹2.3 lakhs for CABG. However, under RAB, the government has capped the price for CABG to ₹95,000. Furthermore, as mandated by RAB, the patient has to only pay 30% of the capped price, while the remaining 70 % is borne by the Govt of Karnataka! So my uncle had to bear only about ₹28,500 for the medical procedure. This significantly reduced the financial burden on a retired senior citizen and, most importantly, his quality of treatment was not compromised.
1. Ration card
If you do not have one, apply for a ration card immediately. Karnataka government has an easy online (and offline) application process on their website. This is the primary requirement for applicants under RAB. Make sure your ration cards are linked to your Aadhaar number.
2. Aadhaar Card
This is another mandatory requirement
3. Medical Reports
Make sure you carry your doctor reports. For CABG, you have to submit the angiogram report as well as the angiogram CD.
Each of these empanelled network hospitals has a dedicated person to handle government schemes, called “Arogya Mitra”. Ask for the hospital to direct you to their Arogya Mitra. They will help with the documents required and process your application. Ensure you meet the Arogya Mitra before you admit the patient.
It has been a long-standing complaint that middle-class families do not receive government benefits. I am very thankful to the Karnataka Chief Minister, Mr Siddaramaiah, for coming up with this unique health care plan. This genuinely aided an APL family and avoided a huge financial burden. I am happy to inform that my uncle is recovering well.
We all pay taxes, either direct or indirect. It is the job of the government to provide services, like quality healthcare, to citizens, using the tax collected. Hence, be aware of such initiatives from the government and make sure you utilize them.
However, I do have a fair warning. We were offered, by some well-meaning people, to convert our APL card to BPL card. The advantage being that a BPL cardholder will receive the treatment completely free of cost. We refused any such malpractice, simply because we did not want to take advantage of the government scheme and cheat the government. When the government is providing us with a service, we must be sensitive enough to not take undue advantage. In the process of our malpractice, we might be robbing someone else of their healthcare needs.
Now Karnataka government plans to merge all the various healthcare schemes, including RAB, into a Universal healthcare plan. This plan, which was supposed to be launched in November 2017, has now been postponed.
According to some reports, each individual has to pay ₹700/year for urban areas and ₹300/year for rural areas to make yourself eligible for the Universal healthcare plan. So be on the lookout for the Universal healthcare plan. Until then you can utilize schemes like RAB for your healthcare needs.
We complain a lot about our leaders, but they deserve a pat on the back when they develop people-friendly policies. In that spirit, I write this post to spread awareness about such schemes.
To know more about the RAB scheme, visit the official website.