Central Government Health Scheme ( CGHS ) was introduced by the Central Government with an aim to extend quality and hassle free medical facilities to the Central Government Employees and Central Government Pensioners. Unfortunately, based on the health policy being pursued by the Central Government, privatisation of health sector, there has been no significant progress in the functioning of CGHS, considering the vast number of CGHS beneficiaries spread over every part of the country.

Though BSNL was formed in 2000, initially BSNL absorbed retirees were not allowed to become CGHS members. It is also a fact that BSNL retirees were not that much eager to switch over to CGHS as the BSNL MRS was considered to be better. However, some of the BSNL retirees of metro cities raised a demand of switching over to CGHS and Pensioners Organisations, including AIBDPA took up the issue with Department of Telecommunications and the government. We argued that BSNL absorbed pensioners are drawing their pension from civil estimates of the Central Government as in the case of central government pensioners and hence they are also eligible for CGHS. After much pressure and Struggles the government agreed to the demand and orders in this regard was issued in 2016

.Still most of the BSNL absorbed pensioners preferred to continue in BSNL MRS for obvious reasons. However, there has been a change among the pensioners, when their medical benefits remaining unpaid for years together and the BSNL administration persuading the retirees to switch over to CGHS.CGHS has its advantages and disadvantages as well. The CGHS card holder is entitled to get outdoor treatment from any Wellness Centre of CGHS and cashless indoor treatment from any empanelled hospital in the country. BSNL absorbed pensioners with CGHS card and residing at CGHS uncovered area have also the option to avail monthly medical allowance of Rs.1000 in lieu of outdoor treatment.

A good number of BSNL absorbed pensioners have already switched over to CGHS. But the hesitation among the vast number of BSNL absorbed pensioners is due to the following disadvantages. (1) CGHS Wellness Centers are available in a limited number of cities in the country and the government is least interested in widening the functioning of CGHS. (2) There are no adequate number of doctors and para medical staff in many Wellness Centers and the pensioners have to wait hours to avail the services.(3) There are no sufficient number of empanelled hospitals under CGHS. For example, it is reported that there is not a single empanelled hospital in Mumbai. It is mainly due to the delay in payment of hospital dues by the government and the lower CGHS rates

.Further many of the absorbed BSNL pensioners find it unaffordable to pay one-time life membership to CGHS. AIBDPA had asked the BSNL management to pay the one-time membership amount of the willing retirees directly to CGHS. Though BSNL management was positive in this regard, may be due to some technical snag, this has not been implemented. Instead, the BSNL management has agreed to reimburse the amount paid to CGHS within one month.

In these circumstances, as an organisation, we can’t compel any pensioner to switch over to CGHS. On the other hand they may take a decision based on their medical requirements and the factors clarified here.

The Central Government is ought to provide better medical facilities to its employees and pensioners. First of all, the government should have a comprehensive scheme to identify the short comings and to take effective steps to resolve. Wellness centes have to be started in all the districts, regular doctors and para medical staff are to be posted and all medicines procured for OP treatment, prominent and speciality hospitals are to be empanelled, to attract such hospitals, the government should ensure periodical revision of CGHS rates and prompt payment of the hospital dues. After all, the government is not extending CGHS services free of cost to the Central Government Employees and pensioners. Huge amounts are being collected as subscription from the beneficiaries and therefore they are entitled to get quality and hassle free medical facilities.

Government should also implement the positive court judgments without limiting these to the particular individuals.We shall definitely continue our fight for allotment of sufficient funds for clearing the pending medical benefits. So also we are committed to fight for the improvement in the functioning of CGHS, particularly in the wake of the recommendations of the 110th Parliamentary Standing Committee.