NEW DELHI: The Centre has decided to cancel the existing insurance scheme of Rs 50 lakh for those healthcare workers who die in the line of Covid-19 duty, it has emerged.
Officials in the Union Health Ministry said the government is in talks with a new insurance company.
"The claims under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana will be settled by the insurance company till the 24th of April 2021," said the Union health ministry in a tweet.
"Thereafter, a new dispensation will be cover the Corona warriors, for which ministry is in talks with a new insurance company (New India Assurance)," it added.
A circular sent out by the Union Health Ministry to states last month said that the scheme concluded on March 24 while only 287 claims had been processed until then.
Anticipating the deaths of healthcare workers, the Union government last year had announced the scheme as part of its Rs 1.7 lakh crore Covid-19 relief package.
"Approximately 22 lakh health workers would be provided insurance cover to fight this pandemic," the official statement by the government had said. “Safai karamcharis, ward-boys, nurses, ASHA workers, paramedics, technicians, doctors and specialists and other health workers would be covered.”
The scheme had also covered workers in the private sector.
There is no official data on the number of frontline workers who have died of Covid-19 in India but according to Indian Medical Association, the largest body of doctors in India, at least 739 MBBS doctors, including 3 doctors in the second and ongoing wave of the pandemic, have succumbed to the infectious disease.
In a letter to written to states, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan however wrote on March 24 this year that while “the scheme has acted as a very effective safety net and has been able to provide relief to the healthcare workers who have lost their lives due to Covid19,” it had to be concluded on the same day.
His letter said that all the claims till the midnight of March 24 would be eligible for coverage under the scheme and one month’s window will be provided for the final submission of all the eligible claims to the insurance company along with the requisite supporting documents.
The scheme, announced by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 26, 2020 was first implemented for 90 days and was later extended for a year.
Bhushan did not respond to a query by this newspaper on the content of the letter sent to states.
Doctors meanwhile expressed dismay at the Centre’s decision to not extend the scheme, especially at a time, when the country is battling a fierce wave of infections.
“It’s really sad and insensitive on the part of the government,” said former IMA president Ravi Wankhedkar.
“This has come at a time when healthcare workers are trying to save lives against a nearly collapsed healthcare system with scant resources while battling extreme physical, emotional and mental exhaustion themselves.”
(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)