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Millennium Post

For healthcare

For healthcare

After sustained reminders from the Apex Court, the Centre last week released the National Health Policy 2017. The health sector in India faces a major challenge—ensuring quality and affordable healthcare to all its citizens. Despite much progress, India bears the burden of 20% of global depredation by diseases, faces a growing incidence of non-communicable diseases, and severe financial constraints for the poor to pay for care. With rising health costs, the lack of insurance cover can condemn households to incur ruinous expenditure, which in turn drive them into a state of chronic poverty. It is a well-established that the poor bear extremely high out-of-pocket expenses (OOP) on healthcare. In India, the lack of a sustainable and well-funded public health system has opened up avenues for private establishments to take advantage of ordinary citizens in connivance with doctors, drug manufacturers, medical devices suppliers and, often, with the Central and state administration. The private sector is a definite player, as they account for approximately 70% of all outpatient care and 60% of inpatient treatments.

There is, however, a lack of accountability regarding the care provided and the cost incurred by the patient. India needs to strengthen its regulatory framework. Without proper oversight, commercial entities indulge in unethical practices, considering the information available to patients from low-income households is sparse and skewed against those that most need treatment. Bengal has led the way with the recent passage of a Bill aimed at overhauling private healthcare. Rural areas need a greater deployment of health professionals, specially trained doctors and nurses. For more significant policy inputs, however, the government needs robust health data, which at the moment is highly fragmented. One of the landmark announcements of the NHP was the increase in targeted government health spending of 2.5% of GDP by 2025, up from 1.19% now. Better partnership with State governments would go some way towards greater efficiency in spending. But this is not nearly enough, considering China spends 3% and Brazil 4.9%. It is well below the 5% figure recommended by the World Health Organization.

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