Since the economic reforms and liberalization of 1991, India’s economy has witnessed a dizzying growth. The per capita income mirrors this trend. Thanks to the economic boom, millions of Indians have left behind them the shadow of the Below Poverty Level days and can now access quality education, food, and jobs. But this has not translated to an improvement in healthcare in India or rise in India’s Human Development Index. One of the most important yardsticks for measuring how the people of a country are faring is healthcare services. Even though India is making strident progress in medical science, the fruits of it remain beyond the reach of a large chunk of the population because health care is expensive.
What do the statistics say?
The National Health Profile in 2018 surveyed the actual percentage of GDP; different countries spend on health care. The survey found that India languishes almost at the bottom of the list. At present only 1.02% of the GDP goes into the health industry or INR 3 per person every day. The Modi government has promised to raise it to 2.5% by 2025, which still falls abysmally short of the global average allocation of 6%. The numbers are too nominal for a country like India which has a high Gross Domestic Product.
The health care allocation is so inadequate that out of pocket expenditure contributes to about 67.78% of expenses on health as compared to the world average of 18%. Among all the Indian states, Bihar allocates the least, only INR 491 per capita. On the other end of the spectrum is Mizoram, which reserves 4.2% of its GDP for medical care.
Why is the cost of medical services making people destitute?
The National Sample Survey found that in the financial year 2013-2014, 36 million families ratcheted up healthcare bills that exceeded the amount they set aside for food and other necessities, on a yearly basis. 25 million of these families are from rural India, mostly without health insurance. That is why one in five of the poorest households incur health care expenses that are catastrophic for their finances.
The Union Health Ministry discovered that 43% of India’s population directs it’s out-of-pocket expenses towards paying for medicinal care services. And that is why medicines are a burden for most families.
The cost of inadequate actions on part of the government has been disastrous. The National Crime Records Bureau revealed that between 2001 and 2015, nearly 0.39 million Indians committed suicide as they were unable to pay for healthcare. To add to the misery, the staggering costs of healthcare in India dragged 7% of the population below the poverty level.
Why didn’t the Change in pricing laws help?
Introducing major changes in pricing laws and including almost 750 medicines in the list of essentials the price of which will be capped by the government, has not really helped because many vital life-giving medicines have been left out of the pricing committee’s purview.
What does the National Health Policy have to say?
The National Health Policy in 2017 advised lowering the price of medicines and other services further as a first step to help solve this crisis of healthcare in India. Other measures this body suggested were- increasing allocation and funding, and making supply chains more efficient.
The only solution to this grim scenario is to allocate a sizeable portion of the GDP to healthcare in India and make sure that the distribution of services is even and accessible to all across the lines of demographics.