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Union govt’s announcement of Universal Healthcare Coverage should be backed by concrete strategies: Experts

Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Saturday, February 10, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Central government’s announcement of Universal Healthcare Coverage in the budget should be backed by concrete strategies. This is because the country’s healthcare, unlike any other system such as the one in UK or US, has a lot of pitfalls. It is due to various reasons such as urban and rural divide, high out of pocket expenditure, under-developed medical device sector and many more, stated experts from the Indian Institute of Healthcare Management and the TA Pai Management Institute.

Indian budgetary system, which has always been vehemently criticised for its poor support towards healthcare, has made a historic move this time. One of its initiatives is the world’s largest government-funded healthcare scheme ‘The National Health Protection Scheme’ under which health coverage of up to Rs.5 lakh per family for secondary and tertiary hospitalisation has been offered. This was indeed an admirable act by government, Universal Health Coverage has been the concern of our country for many years now. Many people having no access to primary medical facilities have been devastating, they said.

According to Dr Usha Manjunath, director of IIHMR Bengaluru, the move towards provision of a more comprehensive primary care by converting 1.5 lakh sub centres in Indian villages to health and wellness centres is a positive development given the lifestyle and chronic disease burden in the country.

The foremost menace that has been hovering around the healthcare system has been a lack of medical practitioners. In a bid to overcome this, 24 new government medical colleges are expected to be set up and upgrade the existing district hospitals in the country. Furthermore, announcing at least one medical college for three parliamentary constituencies is praiseworthy. But the government will need to pay heed to allocation of funds for Post Graduation, he added.

Although the overall budget is good; there is still a need to address few issues. Pointing out on low spend on healthcare Prof Dayashankar Maurya, representing Health Management, TAPMI said that a higher allocation to health sector is much-needed. National Health Protection Scheme brings more resources and more families to healthcare system, however given the problems observed in similar government sponsored health insurance programs and apprehensions expressed by various reports, design and implementation will be crucial.

According to Dr. Manjunath, the most remarkable move by the government was throwing light on burden of TB in India. According to WHO report of 2016, approximately 2.79 million suffer from TB in India. So budget’s move to allocate Rs.500 per month for an individual’s treatment is a benefit.

Now the question is of its successful implementation. Some of the targets appear ambitious but will need to be backed up by concrete strategies, stated Dr. Manjunath.


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