Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday launched the flagship universal health coverage for the citizens of Islamabad federal territory. Thousands have already availed free medical facilities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab province where the project was launched earlier.
Speaking at the launching ceremony of Sehat Card (heath card), PM Khan described it as a “defining moment” in improving healthcare services and a major leap towards making Pakistan a welfare state.
‘Not just a health card but healthcare system’
“This is not just a health card but a healthcare system,” the premier said, adding that all citizens of Pakistan can avail free healthcare services worth Rs1 million per family annually at both private and government hospitals. Khan said the initiative would encourage government hospitals to offer quality healthcare while incentivising private hospitals to extend health services in more distant rural areas. The government would be spending Rs450 billion on the first public health insurance programme for all citizens in Pakistan’s history.
Universal health coverage was Khan’s major election manifesto pledge. Khan had said that after he lost his mother to cancer, he decided to establish a system in Pakistan to improve access to quality healthcare for all especially low-income families. PM’s special aide on health affairs Dr Faisal Sultan said the “Sehat Sahulat Programme is a major step towards a revolutionary change in our health system.”
Who can avail the health benefits?
The ‘Sehat Sahulat Programme’ covers all residents of Islamabad, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan and only Tharparkar in Sindh. They can avail free health facilities at 682 hospitals across the country. In August 2020, KP became the country’s first province to offer a universal health insurance programme for all its residents. Last month, the programme was extended to Punjab to offer health insurance to 30 million families in the province. Sindh is the only province that remains deprived of universal health coverage due to the refusal of the PPP-led provincial government to join the federal government’s health and ration programme.
Citizens can confirm their eligibility by sending their National Identity Card (CNIC) number to 8500 via SMS or calling at helpline 0800-09009. “There is no need for registration or a new card as your CNIC is also your health card,” officials said.
Treatments covered under Sehat Card
The Rs1 million health coverage includes all priority treatments such as emergency services, in-patient services (all medical and surgical cases), fractures and injuries, heart disease (angioplasty/bypass), diabetes treatment, maternity services, burns and road traffic accidents (life and limb saving treatment, impacts and prosthesis), kidney diseases and dialysis, chronic diseases (TB, Hepatitis, HIV, liver disease), organ failure (liver, kidney, heart, lungs), cancer treatment (surgery, chemo and radiotherapy) and neurosurgical services.