India to float universal health insurance on lines of Obamacare

India plans launch a universal health insurance scheme under prime minister Narendra Modi's personal supervision, which would be the largest of its kind in the world, aimed at delivering quality health insurance services to all, according to an official release, quoting health minister Harsh Vardhan's speech to India-origin physicians in the US on Saturday.

''The blueprint of the world's largest universal health insurance programme is in the process of being sharpened under the Prime Minister's personal gaze. It is partially inspired by US President Barack Obama's grand insurance-for-all project, which is popularly known as 'Obamacare''', said Vardhan.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) of the US, signed into law in 2010, aims to guarantee quality and affordability of health insurance. The programme had so far registered 10 million US citizens, The Financial Express reported.

According to Vardhan, who also read out the prime minister's written speech at the annual convention of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in Texas, the prime minister had authorised him to design a ''brand-new policy soon''.

According to the statement, the prime minister aimed to bring about a  ''complete transformation'' of the health sector through research, innovation and the latest technology.

"It is my firm belief that our focus needs to go beyond health insurance. The way ahead lies in health assurance. We need to focus on preventive health care where public participation has a major role to play," the prime minister said in his address to delegates at the 32nd annual convention of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) held in San Antonio, PTI reported.

The minister named specific sectors where AAPI members could contribute, which would include teaching assignments, knowledge sharing on telemedicine, lending expertise in fighting disease, helping develop model primary health centres, etc.

The health minister also launched the "Swasth India" portal which, in addition to showcasing medical advancement and recommending panacea for the benefit of Indians, would facilitate online permission for Indian American doctors to serve in the areas of their choice in India.

The portal would make it possible for any US-based Indian doctor to select the areas in which they wished to serve in India, seek and receive formal approval from Medical Council of India (MCI) on their qualifications, and address all other government issues within 15 days.

"Before leaving on this trip, I had written to MCI that existing bottlenecks should be eased and if permission is held up beyond 15 days, then it should be deemed automatically granted," Harsh Vardhan said. The president of MCI, Jayashreeben Mehta, was present on the occasion.