Health insurance encourages Gulmi residents to seek medical careWomen and senior citizens from impoverished families have hugely benefited from health insurance facilities initiated by the government.
Putali Sunar, a 63-year-old Dalit woman from Gulmidurbar Rural Municipality-4, had been living with severe abdomen pain for years but did not have the means to go for a medical check up.
Only a month ago did she find out that she was covered by a health insurance programme under the federal government which would cover all her medical expenses. She then visited the district hospital in Gulmi, where she was diagnosed with gallstone. Putali’s gallstones were surgically removed free of cost, relieving the patient of chronic pain and her family members of medical expenses.
“We wouldn’t have been able to get the surgery done if we had to bear the cost,” said Laxmi Sunar, Putali’s daughter-in-law, who had accompanied Putali to the district hospital. “The health insurance scheme has come as a great relief to all of our family members.”
According to Gopal Prasad Pandey, the chairman of the Gulmi District Hospital Management Committee, the government’s health insurance has covered the check-up and treatment costs of beneficiaries worth around Rs 8 million.
“The beneficiaries received X-ray, USG and ECG among other services equivalent to Rs 4.3 million and received free of cost medicines worth Rs 3.6 million,” said Pandey.
Women and senior citizens from impoverished families have hugely benefited from health insurance facilities.
“I did not save money when I was young and economically active. Now that I don’t have a steady source of income, the health insurance policy has come as a boon,” said Umakala Shrees, a 58-year-old woman from Resunga Municipality-8, who got her health insurance in October last year. “I often fall ill and have to visit the hospital frequently. I have to take medicines that cost a good amount of money. The health insurance covers all these expenses now.”
Rupkala Bhusal, 82, of Malarani Rural Municipality-2 in Arghakhanchi district is diabetic and has to visit the district hospital regularly to get her tests done. She too is one of the beneficiaries of the health insurance policy.
“I do not have to pay even a single rupee for blood sugar tests after the government issued me a health insurance document. I regularly visit the hospital for tests and treatment now,” she said.
Like Putali and Rupkala, many people have started visiting health institutions, as the health insurance policy ensures free check-ups and treatment for its beneficiaries.
As per data available at the Gulmi District Hospital, a total of 15,975 people received free health services under the health insurance policy within the first three months of the current fiscal year. According to Dr Suraj Pokharel, the information officer at the hospital, women outnumber men in receiving services under the health insurance programme.
The number of people visiting the hospital to receive services under the health insurance policy is increasing, health workers say. According to Pokharel, 10,030 individuals with health insurance facilities visited the district hospital in the first three months of the last fiscal year. Nearly 6,000 more people visited the hospital in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, said Pokharel.
Meanwhile in Rolpa, another hill district of Lumbini Province, the health insurance programme has not proven to be effective. Only a negligible number of families in the district have signed up for the health insurance policy, according to Sagar Paudel, the district coordinator of the Health Insurance Board.
“Initially, around 7,000 families signed up for the health insurance scheme but only half of them renewed the policy,” said Paudel. “We have requested the people’s representatives to provide necessary support to make the health insurance programme effective in the district but the response has been dismal so far.”