Health seems to have finally been factored in as part of India’s political agenda. The Narendra Modi-led government had announced that it would allocate Rs 6,400 crores to the Ayushman Bharat Yojana. It has been established as the largest health scheme in the world, claimed to have to benefit more than 10 lakh patients ever since its launch. But can this ambitious project provide a cover of up to 5 lakh to 500 million families without boosting health spending in the budget? Are we even being realistic relying on these healthcare goals set for us by the government?
For The Record
India still has the highest number of tuberculosis, cases of leprosy are rising, and though malaria case declined, deaths due to acute encephalitis syndrome are only on the rise. Simply put, India is still struggling to control infectious diseases. India accounts for 17 percent of global maternal deaths, 21% of deaths among children below five years and 29 percent of newborn deaths. And despite the 40-year old nutrition programme, the Integrated Child Development Scheme, every third stunned child in the world is Indian. Malnourished children are still struggling to stay healthy and catching up with their peers and in classrooms and at their workplace. Ayushman Bharat: Key Facts to Know About PM Modi's 'Game-Changing' PMJAY Healthcare Scheme.
India’s Position in The World
It’s such an irony that despite being the sixth-largest economy in the world, India has one of the most underfunded healthcare systems in the world. Did you know that Sri Lanka spends about four times as much as India per capita and Indonesia spends more than twice? It is a grave concern as, without proper funding, the government services remain poor in quality and access. The result? It pushes most Indians to private healthcare. So it is no wonder that Indians are the sixth-highest spenders in private healthcare globally and 55 million Indians are driven to poverty every year.
What India’s Healthcare System Lacks
The health system is ill-equipped to handle these challenges. India has a severe shortage of healthcare workers – on average, there is one doctor for every 11,082 people, which is more than 10 times than the doctor-patient ratio that WHO recommends. So clearly, we need more hospitals, more doctors, more equipment, and more facilities all of which is directly proportional to more healthcare funds. Budget 2019-20- Experts React to the Healthcare Announcements; Say Expected More for the Healthcare and Diagnostics Sector.
Though the government touted this as the world’s largest free healthcare scheme, critics have questioned the decision to rely on an insurance-based system. And why not? Both the PMJAY and the centres are underfunded for their avowed goals. In short, India’s health systems need a drastic overhaul to deal with infectious-disease, maternal deaths and malnutrition on the rise.