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Why doesn’t the National Health Policy regulate private healthcare?

India’s National Health Policy is being termed as a diluted version of its original draft that will affect the consumers adversely.

health Updated: May 22, 2017 10:11 IST
The policy addresses issues concerning universal healthcare coverage, reducing maternal and infant mortality rate as well as making drugs and diagnostics available free.
The policy addresses issues concerning universal healthcare coverage, reducing maternal and infant mortality rate as well as making drugs and diagnostics available free.(PTI File Photo)

New Delhi: The rising cost of treatment and hospitalisations was the top health concern for 42% of the more than 40,000 people surveyed online, yet India’s new National Health Policy does not regulate the private sector, which accounts for 80% of healthcare delivery.

“The Policy, which got the Cabinet nod in March,is a watered-down version of the original draft. From the initial drafts to the final cleared policy, there is a sea of difference. The policy in its current form is severely diluted, with private healthcare sector left largely unregulated,” says K. Yatish Rajawat, chief strategy officer, LocalCircles India, a citizen engagement platform.

“This policy that has been in works for more than two years was supposed to be legislation, but instead has been reduced to mere guidelines. What stopped the government from bringing in legislation. There is a need to standardise healthcare delivery system, especially medical procedures.”

Another change in the final policy that was widely criticised was that from health being considered a fundamental right, the revised policy mentions it as ‘assured healthcare to all’, with the implementation left largely to states.

To gauge the consumer response on the healthcare system in India, LocalCircles took response of more than 40,000 people in an online survey held between April and May this year.

When asked what their biggest concern about healthcare services was, 42% said that they did not trust the healthcare system in India and an equal 42% said that the rising costs in hospitals was a concern for them.

Availability of healthcare services was a concern for 9% of them and 7% said rising cost of drugs and medicines was a concern.

The government healthcare providers is less than 20% of the healthcare industry in India, which means a majority of people rely on private healthcare providers and pay out-of-pocket, sending a large number of people below the poverty line each year.

Union health minister JP Nadda, however, says that the final policy is a result of rigorous consultations among experts.

“There were exhaustive consultations at many levels among experts. It was also kept in public domain for people’s views, and the final version was agreed upon only after including everyone’s opinions,” he said.

“Since the private sector has grown and become really expensive, the policy mentions strategic engagement with the private sector as an important component so that a common man isn’t deprived of treatment because of its cost,” said Nadda.

The policy’s focus, says the health minister, is on co-sharing of facilities and expertise as there is “no dearth of money’.

“Our target is to increase public spending to 2.5% of the GDP by 2025, and it will happen in a phased manner. In the past two years the health allocation has only increased, with about 27% increase in this budget alone, he said.

What is the biggest concern about health care services in India? This is what more than 40,000 persons surveyed online had to say.

Rising cost in hospitals: 42%

Trust in health care system: 42%

Rising costs of drugs and medicines: 9%

Availability of healthcare services: 7%

Should the new National Healthcare Policy cover and regulate private hospitals as well?

Yes: 82%

No: 8%

Will not make any difference: 6%

Can’t say: 4%

Should surgery/procedure charges at hospital across India be standardised to fixed price based on hospital start rating to increase transparency and trust in healthcare services?

Yes: 87%

No: 9%

Can’t say: 4%

Source: LocalCircles India survey