The availability of free treatment under health cards in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has seen specific limitations imposed. Riaz Tanoli, the Chief Executive Officer of the Health Facility Program, has addressed this matter, emphasizing that recent social media reports claiming the complete termination of free treatment for all health cardholders are untrue and lack authenticity. He clarified that comprehensive data collection is underway in collaboration with the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), which will include income details of the entire provincial population.
Tanoli elaborated that families with a monthly income of less than 37,653 rupees will continue to receive entirely free treatment services through health cards. This criterion applies to approximately 65% of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s population.
For those whose monthly income exceeds 37,653 rupees, treatment costs will be determined based on a sliding scale, ranging from 25% to 90% of expenses depending on their income. The middle-class segment will contribute 25%, while more affluent individuals may be charged up to 90% of their treatment expenses.
Riaz Tanoli highlighted specific medical procedures that will remain entirely free for all health cardholders, including appendectomies, tonsillectomies, eye surgeries, and stomach operations. However, individuals with higher incomes will be subject to co-payments for services such as cardiology, diabetes management, cancer treatments, and major surgeries resulting from accidents.
He emphasized the substantial financial commitment required for the health card program and suggested that instead of discontinuation, some modifications could ensure that the program benefits economically disadvantaged individuals.
To provide context, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government initially launched the “Sehat Card Plus” program in December 2015 as part of its social security initiatives. Initially, it provided free medical and surgical treatments to approximately 50% of the provincial population. The program was first implemented in districts like Kohat, Mardan, Malakand, and Chitral, benefiting 1.8 million low-income households, equivalent to approximately 15 million people, who were entitled to free treatment up to 540,000 rupees at designated hospitals within the province.
Subsequently, in February 2019, the program expanded to encompass the entire province, along with other parts of the country in the second phase, aiming to offer free treatment up to 1,000,000 rupees to eligible beneficiaries.