New Delhi: In a move that could have far reaching implications for the health sector, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government is planning to give free medicine for all through Public Health Facilities under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). The decision comes even as the Health Ministry is working towards the goal of universal health care for all.
On Wednesday the Union Cabinet cleared the setting up of a Central Procurement Agency to procure drugs in bulk for the scheme. The Central Procurement Agency will be set up soon and prepare standard treatment protocols.
The Cabinet also decided that all health centres in the country would be modernised to provide cashless treatment. The plan is to strengthen facilities at the primary health centres, community health centres and district hospitals so as to provide a minimum package of care to all citizens through provision of cashless, hassle free outpatient, inpatient and diagnostic care and supply of essential medicines.
Ambulance services would also be strengthened to provide access to health services to far off and inaccessible areas.
At the meeting, held in the Prime Minister’s Office on the Central Government’s priorities in the health sector over the next five years, it was decided to increase the health outlay to 2.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Currently India spends around 1.4 per cent of GDP on the health sector.
The meeting focused on implementation of recommendations of the National Commission for Macroeconomics & Health (NCMH) and the High Level Expert Group (HLEG) on health set up by Planning Commission.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasised the need for increased outlay on health sector during 12th Plan so that adequate funds were made available for the sector. He has also stated that though funds for the health sector would not be a constraint, there was a need to create adequate capacity at the Centre and the states to meaningfully absorb the increased outlay.
The Planning Commission has been requested to allocate adequate resources to achieve the target. As health is primarily a state subject, the outlay of states for health would be critical in achieving the target.
The Planning Commission may motivate and give incentives the states to allocate more funds for the health sector. For this purpose the Planning Commission in consultation with the Health Ministry would also work out an appropriate mechanism for this purpose.