It was the 12th Plan, the first official document, which advised in favour of universal healthcare, estimating a total allocation of around 2.5 per cent of the GDP. The idea could not be implemented as the Government of the time could not commit itself to the required funds (estimated to allocate a maximum of 1.6 per cent of the GDP). At present, the total government expenditure (centre plus states) on healthcare is 1.4 per cent of the GDP (Economic Survey 2016-17). The healthcare-related sufferings in the country have been always a matter of high concern—out of pocket expenditure is one of the highest in the world (at over 70 per cent since many decades). The idea has been a major issue of the public debate. During the last General Elections, the idea kept resonating across the promises of the political parties.
Committing to the cause of universal healthcare at the practical level has been a daunting task for the Government, given the scarcity of resources.
To implement such a policy, the Government needs to put in place a great many physical and non-physical support systems, such as the number of hospitals, an adequate number of personnel, medical colleges, nursing institutes, health insurance, public deliveries of vaccines and medicines; etc. naming the major ones. To implement such a policy mobilising the required financial resources has been the biggest challenge for the governments. Developing a financial model was the need of the hour.
Going For The Idea
After almost two years of consultations with various stakeholders, the Government of India, finally took the final call in the direction of ‘universal healthcare’ when the National Health Policy 2017 was announced by mid-March 2017. The policy focusses “Preventive and Promotive Health Care and Universal access to good quality healthcare services”. The major highlights of the policy4 have been discussed below.
Primary aim: The primary aim of the policy is to inform, clarify, strengthen and prioritise the role of the Government in shaping health systems in all its dimensions— investment in health, organisation and financing of healthcare services, prevention of diseases and promotion of good health through cross-sectoral action, access to technologies, developing human resources, encouraging medical pluralism, building the knowledge base required for better health, financial protection strategies and regulation and progressive assurance for health. The policy emphasises reorienting and strengthening the Public Health Institutions across the country, to provide universal access to free drugs, diagnostics and other essential healthcare.
Approach change: The policy denotes important change from very selective to comprehensive primary healthcare package which includes geriatric healthcare, palliative care and rehabilitative care services. The policy advocates allocating major proportion (up to two-thirds or more) of resources to primary care followed by secondary and tertiary care. The policy aspires to provide at the district level most of the secondary care which is currently provided at a medical college hospital.
Broad principle: The broad principle of the policy is centred on Professionalism, Integrity and Ethics, Equity, Affordability, Universality, Patient Cantered & Quality of Care, Accountability and Pluralism.
Affordability: It seeks to ensure improved access and affordability of quality secondary and tertiary care services through a combination of public hospitals and strategic purchasing in healthcare deficit areas from accredited non-governmental healthcare providers, achieve significant reduction in out of pocket expenditure due to healthcare costs, reinforce trust in public healthcare system and influence operation and growth of private healthcare industry as well as medical technologies in alignment with public health goals.
Pluralistic design: To leverage the pluralistic healthcare legacy, the policy recommends mainstreaming the different health systems. Towards mainstreaming the potential of AYUSH the policy envisages better access to AYUSH remedies through co-location in public facilities. Yoga would also be introduced much more widely in school and work places as part of promotion of good health.
Focus on pre-emptive care: The policy affirms the commitment to pre-emptive care (aimed at preempting the occurrence of diseases) to achieve optimum levels of child and adolescent health. The policy envisages school health programmes as a major focus area as also health and hygiene being made a part of the school curriculum.
Funding: The policy proposes raising public health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of the GDP in a time bound manner. It aims at providing larger package of assured comprehensive primary healthcare through the HWCs (Health and Wellness Centres).
Private participation: The idea of universal healthcare is very realistic to the time as it has decided to enhance the participation of the private sector in a positive and proactive way in achieving the goals of the policy. It envisages private sector collaboration for strategic purchasing, capacity building, skill development programmes, awareness generation, developing sustainable networks for community to strengthen mental health services, and disaster management. The policy also advocates financial and non-incentives for encouraging the private sector participation.
Quantitative targets: The policy assigns specific quantitative targets aimed at reduction of disease prevalence/incidence, for health status and programme impact, health system performance and system strengthening. It seeks to strengthen the health, surveillance system and establish registries for diseases of public health importance, by 2020. It also seeks to align other policies for medical devices and equipment with public health goals.
Regulatory mechanism: The policy advocates extensive deployment of digital tools for improving the efficiency and outcome of the healthcare system and proposes establishment of National Digital Health Authority (NDHA) to regulate, develop and deploy digital health across the continuum of care.
Voluntary support: The policy supports voluntary service in rural and under-served areas on pro-bono (free of charge) basis by recognised healthcare professionals under a ‘giving back to society’ initiative.
Background: The Government of India adopted an elaborate procedure for formulation of the health policy. Its Draft was placed in public domain on 30th December 2014. After detailed consultations with stakeholders and State Governments, it was further fine-tuned. Finally, by late February 2016 it received the endorsement of the Central Council for Health & Family Welfare (the apex policy making body). Since the last health policy was announced in 2002, the country has seen much socio-economic and epidemiological changes. Besides, there are some burning current challenges as well as emerging ones. To address these issues in holistic and effective way, the Government needed to come out with a newly designed and contemporary kind of health policy—the outcome is the NHP 2017.
The newly announced (in the Union Budget 2018-19) National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) is a historic step in this regard. The scheme aims to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage up to Rs. 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.
PS : How to prepare Indian Economy for UPSC ?
Help us by contributing and making this site better by commenting below or mailing us at email@example.com . You can send us articles and suggestions .