21 October, 2020

In Sickness And In Wealth

A likely switchover to a 'pay-and-be-treated' regime can only compound the misery of the poor

Abhijit Bhatlekar
In Sickness And In Wealth
It's a 'revamp' of the healthcare system one should well be wary of. Free or subsidised medicare at public hospitals and medical centres could well become a thing of the past as the government puts the final touches to its National Health Policy (NHP), 2001. Similar to the strategy adopted by the food ministry for the Public Distribution System (PDS), those above the poverty line may now find themselves bracketed as "those who can afford to pay" and be asked "reasonable user charges" to avail secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities.

The switchover to the 'pay and be treated' mode in a country which has a sizeable population living below the poverty line has understandably caused concern to those monitoring public health. Says Robert J. Kim-Farley, the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in India: "It must be ensured that there is total access to healthcare and that such services are affordable. Sometimes the costs of hospitalisation are so high that it alone can push one below the poverty line. These points need to be considered while finalising the policy."...


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