Ensuring Quality and Affordable Healthcare for All
Quality healthcare at affordable prices still remain a distant dream for the majority of people in the country, despite health schemes announced by the Center and state governments including Ayushman Bharat. A recent statistic has claimed that around 7.5 crore Indian families are pushed into poverty each year due to medical expenses. This statistic clearly suggests that the fruits of various government-sponsored health schemes are not reaching wtargeted sections of society. Taking advantage of the situation, some profit-driven individuals have turned healthcare into a lucrative business. The government should act strictly to prevent anyone from exploiting people in the name of modern treatment. Given the prevailing situation, the government must ensure that private hospitals accept schemes like Ayushman Bharat, at least for the marginalised sections of society. The task is not a difficult one as almost all large hospitals are duty-bound to treat the poor as per the terms and conditions agreed upon with the government while securing permission to open the hospital. Moreover, many doctors working in private hospitals allege that they work under tremendous pressure to increase revenue as hospitals owners prefer to follow corporate style of functioning.
In this context, the role of the health insurance sector is very crucial as rather than easing the burden of people in return for the premium received, getting reimbursed by insurance companies is a difficult task. Even in the case of ‘cashless facilities,’ companies always downsize bills on various pretexts, which puts an extra burden on patients and their families. Moreover, after the COVID-19 pandemic, such companies have exorbitantly increased the premium amount while curtailing facilities. The Centre should study such changes so as to provide adequate monetary relief to those who require treatment and are in need of aid. Additionally, the government should consider providing subsidised insurance policies to children and the elderly.
There is no denying that since Independence, India has come a long way in terms of medical care in comparison to many other countries. The availability of quality healthcare has made India a favorite destination for medical tourism. The country’s increasing medical advancement was evident during the recent pandemic when India became one of the few countries to develop a vaccine, which saved many lives. The country has also achieved considerable success in eradicating Malaria and Tuberculosis. Both the rate of maternal deaths and neonatal deaths have come down. But all these achievements will mean nothing if ordinary people do not get access to affordable healthcare. So to ensure proper and affordable healthcare, the government should prevent private hospitals from turning into money making machines and rather focus on patient care. The government should also allocate a much larger percentage of GDP on healthcare, which is below two per cent at present, far lower than developed countries. The situation must be addressed at the earliest to ensure the goal of quality healthcare at affordable prices for all.