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How government can make healthcare affordable in India

The constitution of India mentions that every Indian citizen is entitled to free healthcare

The constitution of India mentions that every Indian citizen is entitled to free healthcare but in reality the private healthcare sector takes care of the major portion of healthcare practices in India. The government hospitals provide healthcare facilities free of cost to the public in the country. Majority of the healthcare expenditure is borne by the people out of their pockets as most of the Indian public has no health insurance policies. 

According to the report released by the National Sample Survey Office of the Ministry of Statistics in the year 2016, it was revealed that around 80% of the Indian population is not covered by any kind of health insurance policy. Further, the report said that approximately 14% of people living in rural areas and around 18% of the population in urban areas had any type of health insurance plans. In the year 2014-15, the Health Insurance premium amounted to Rs. 20,440 crores.

The portion of the GDP being spent on the health sector has been on the rise though this is still the lowest as compared to the other BRICS countries which include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as mentioned by the World Health Organization. In the year 2011, around 3.9% of the GDP of the country was spent on the health sector. From the 3.9% spent on the health sector, health insurance makes for about 5-10% of the amount spent.

The healthcare initiatives announced by the government in the last budget session which included the introduction of more than three thousand stores for medical supplies under the Jan Aushadhi Scheme, reduction of duties on equipment for dialysis and making treatment for dialysis available in every district hospital and introduction of a new health protection plan which would enhance the financial cover for workers and houses in the low income segment are all steps taken by the government towards making healthcare affordable and accessible in India.

Some steps that the government can take to make healthcare affordable in India are:

Additions/Changes in Jan Aushadhi Scheme

Non hospitalized care which often is not covered by any insurance cover is one of the most portion of healthcare expenses. Buying of medicines for uses other than hospitalized care accounts for the majority of the medical expenditure in a household. The figures are around 72% for rural households and 68% for urban households. The Jan Aushadhi Scheme which aims to make quality medicines available at affordable prices can help in tackling this problem.

Inclusion of Above Poverty Line (APL) population under government healthcare schemes

Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna introduced by the government for the poor is functional in almost 19 states and covers around 40 million families in India. Around 10.5 million people have benefited from hospitalisation under this scheme. This scheme has the potential of improving hospital utilisation and providing financial protection to the poor against medical expenses in case of proper administration of the scheme. 

The APL population which is currently not covered under the scheme, can also benefit by the prices which are discounted and negotiated under the scheme. This section of the population can be enrolled under the scheme but can be asked to pay for themselves. This can help by driving down the prices through organised purchase of healthcare just like in the case of medicines. Every state can develop their own set of standards for this inclusion.

Increase spending on healthcare

There is not enough investment in the field of healthcare. The per capita spending is quite less because of a large population. The spending by the government on healthcare is just around 1% and private spending comprises of the majority portion of the healthcare spending in India. Investment in public health departments needs to be made as most of these institutions are inefficient in providing services due to which people have to turn to private institutions. Early detection of diseases by proving better services through these public healthcare facilities can help in efficient treatment and save subsequent expenditure.

Invest in Innovation and Technology

Innovation can help in driving down costs and offer improvements in the quality of healthcare. Certain states like Tamil Nadu have already implemented measures like procuring, testing and distributing generic medicines to public hospitals at low costs, Gujarat undertakes screening programs for the public and has set up screening centres for diseases like diabetes for the people. Other states should also follow their footsteps and introduce innovative measures in the healthcare space.

Subsidies and Benefits

The biggest players in the medical diagnostic device field namely, Philips, GE and Siemens manufacture low cost devices in India. More such organizations can be attracted to set up hubs in India by providing subsidies and developing hassle free policies for ease of business in India.

Health insurance policies help the individual by making medical expenditure affordable.  Web aggregators helps people by providing comprehensive information about the best health insurance plans available in India. Web aggregators provides a detailed description and comparison of the various health insurance options available for the public. Web aggregators has made comparing health insurance policies easier by providing online access to all the required information. The individual can provide details and their requirements and 

Health care is one of the most important topics in the country today. Providing affordable and accessible healthcare to one and all is the government of India’s motto and various steps have been taken and policies framed in this direction. But, there is a need for better planning and execution to make healthcare facilities affordable for the large population in the country through better policy decisions. 

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