More than 3 crore people in India are pushed below the poverty line each year because of health spending, said Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at the Planning Commission Conference on Infrastructure on Tuesday.
Taking a leaf out of US President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform bill that provides medicare to all citizens, Azad said India needs to improve its government hospitals and public health centres to make quality healthcare affordable.
“The primary responsibility of providing affordable and quality care is with the government, but an estimated 75 per cent of human resources in health, 68 per cent hospitals and 37 per cent of total bed capacity are in the private sector… Keeping this in view, for the first time in several decades, the government is making substantial investment in public health infrastructure,” he said.
India is one of five countries in the world with almost 80 per cent health spending incurred by households as compared to between 20 per cent and 50 per cent in developed countries.
Azad said that a private sector-led health system like in the US would neither be “advisable nor feasible” in India. Improved public health delivery has shown results. “In Tamil Nadu, 10 per cent people have shifted from private care to public hospitals because treatment is free and of good quality.”
“Our development model was based on increasing household incomes to improve the quality of life. It is only now that we are beginning to realise that economic growth is possible when it is founded on a healthy and literate population,” he said.