The fact that cataract surgeries top PMJAY claims shows how government failed to address the problem
Forty two years of a government programme that does free cataract surgeries and yet cataract removal tops the list of procedures for which claims have been submitted under Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana(PMJAY).
If more proof was ever needed about how acute the problem is in India’s poor, this is it. Till November 24, 6900 claims have been submitted. This despite the fact that India has the oldest government blindness control programme in the world. 62.6 percent of all blindness in India is a result of cataract – a progressive clouding of the eye that leads to loss of vision. It is common in old age. It is completely reversible with surgery.
In 2017-18 alone 15,91,977 surgeries were performed under NBCPVI). Under PMJAY, Rs 6500-10,500 is paid for the surgery. Under NPCBVI the surgery is free
In 2017-18 alone 15,91,977 surgeries were performed under National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment (NBCPVI). Under PMJAY, Rs 6500-10,500 is paid for the surgery. Under NPCBVI the surgery is free.
A 2008 article in the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology predicted: “…in 2001, there were 7.75 million individuals whose blindness could be attributed to cataract and this would increase to 8.25 million by 2020. There is an increase in the total number of cataract blind in the age group above 70 years, over the period 2001-2020 as against a decrease in the other age groups. By 2020, the prevalence of cataract blindness in the population aged 70+ will be four times higher than the prevalence of cataract blindness in other age groups, while the population in this age bracket increases by 108% over the period 2001-2020.”
India has a current cataract surgery rate (CSR) of 5000. CSR is defined as Total number of cataract surgeries performed / Total population x 1,000,000. However it is not uniform across the country. In Kannauj district of Uttar Pradesh the cataract surgery coverage (proportion of individuals who need the surgery and manage to get it) is 47.1% while that in Gujarat’s Kheda is 93.2%. The CSC in India as a whole is 75%.
A 2017 study in the International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health said: “Since, cataract surgery is considered as one of the most cost-effective interventions with a cost of disability-adjusted life years saved of US$ 20–40, and CSC being one of the vital indicator for an evaluation of eye care programs, therefore, these findings are very useful for planning an effective and appropriate eye care intervention programs in the regions, in particular, in north Indian states. Our findings suggest that UP and Punjab states are lacking behind in providing cataract surgical services, which needs a concerted effort to improve the present situation.”