India’s ‘affordable healthcare’ to remain just as a dream ?

patients3Reuters  : India’s dreams of ‘affordable healthcare’ to remain just that, a dream. Atleast until Modi makes up his mind! In what could spell doom for India’s already ‘in-shambles’ healthcare infrastructure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a major cutback of an ambitious healthcare plan after estimated costs for the scheme came to about $18.5bn over the next five years, several government sources have said.

PM has had to make difficult choices to boost economic growth – his government’s first full annual budget, announced last month, ramped up infrastructure spending, leaving less federal funding immediately available for social sectors.

The health ministry developed a draft policy on universal health care in coordination with the prime minister’s office last year. The National Health Assurance Mission aims to provide free drugs, diagnostic services and insurance for serious ailments for India’s 1.2 billion people.

The health ministry proposed rolling out the system from April 2015, and in October projected its cost as $25.5 billion over four years. By the time the project was presented to Modi in January the costs had been pared to Rs1.16 trillion ($18.5 billion) over five years.

That was still too much. The programme was not approved, three health ministry officials and two other government sources told Reuters. Three officials said the health ministry has been asked to revamp the policy, but work is yet to start.

So health experts were dismayed when the union budget for the full-year starting April raised the allocation for the country’s main health department only by about 2 percent from the previous year, less than inflation. The meagre increase dimmed prospects for the massive health plan, they said.

The health plan was drafted in consultation with Modi’s office and an expert panel, including an expert from the World Bank. The proposal included insurance to cover more expensive and serious ailments such as heart surgeries or organ failure.

Two government officials said this benefit will be withdrawn. The health ministry was also asked why the new plan could not be simply combined with existing health schemes.

The decision to slash the level of insurance coverage will have an impact on India’s thriving private health sector, which would have seen huge business growth as the programme channelled millions of new patients into private hospitals.

Currently only 17 percent of India’s population has some form of health insurance.

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