Islamabad: free health insurance for 80 million poor people

The first phase of the project was launched, entitled "Sehat Insaf Card". Thanks to this new health card, the poor will have access to over 150 hospitals across the country. The insurance covers both medical expenses and hospital transport.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the government has activated health coverage for the poorest sections of society. The ambitious program of free medical care was signed two days ago and takes the name of "Sehat Insaf Card", but is best known only as the "health card".

For the first phase, it provides access to medical services for 15 million families, that is about 80 million people, mainly resident in the tribal districts. Dr. Mehdi Hasan, president of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told AsiaNews: "We greatly appreciate the government's initiative. It guarantees access to treatment for those who cannot afford it. If it is applied properly, it will really be a revolution ".

Health Minister Aamir Kiani said that the first areas where coverage will be extended are the Punjab, Gilgit Baltistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where all the poor population will benefit; in addition to these, also 85 thousand destitute families of Islamabad.

The health plan allows access to more than 150 hospitals throughout Pakistan, both public and private. In the facilities you can receive free treatment for a wide range of treatments, including angioplasty, surgery and cancer, up to a total of 720 thousand rupees (4,500 euro). In addition to medical expenses, the insurance also covers hospital transport for up to 1,000 rupees (6 euros) per trip.

According to Prime Minister Imran Khan, "the cards will help to reduce poverty". "We want - he added - to help and safeguard the poor sectors of society through these health coverings".

Dr. Mehdi Hasan emphasizes the value of the program introduced by Islamabad. "We must keep in that in Pakistan 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, that is with less than 1.5 dollars a day. For these people it is impossible to cure themselves because they cannot bear the high cost of operations ". In conclusion, the activist says: "We welcome the initiative. The health card represents a great opportunity for the poor, provided that it is adequately supported ".