The rising cost of medical treatment and lack of health insurance is pushing families into poverty, says a study by Praja Foundation, a non-profit working for better governance.
An average family from Mumbai spends Rs 48, 321 annually on medical expenses, according to the sample survey by Praja Foundation. The house-to-house survey which estimates the burden of diseases across all economic sections in the city showed that an increasing number of people belonging to the lowest economic category in the city – classified as Socio-Economic Classification E (Sec E), the study did not have the exact income levels of the categories - are falling ill to both infectious and non-communicable diseases.
“Owing to the heavy cost of medical services, most families are being pushed below the poverty line. There is a need for a better insurance coverage and improved access to public health facilities,” said Nitai Mehta, managing trustee of the foundation adding that working age group (18-40 years) have reported a higher occurrence of diseases.
The survey found that 74 cases of malaria, 12 cases of cancer and 72 cases of diabetes were reported for every 1,000 households in the city belonging to Sec E this year. In comparison, the incidence for the general population is 55, five and 67.
The survey, which covered people belonging to all economic groups, found that 71% families in the city do not have a medical insurance.
“The lack of health coverage leads to a rise in out-of-pocket expenses. The civic body has maintained a reactive approach. Following the rise in malaria cases in 2010, the BMC launched a campaign which helped reduce the malaria incidence. However, we need a proactive approach,” added Mehta.
In fact, 21% of the respondent to the survey claimed that they have spent 11% of their annual income on hospitalisation and other medical expenses this year already. The poor quality of public health infrastructure is also to be blamed, said experts. During the survey, half (52%) of the respondents said they use private health facilities only. Just 32% said that they went to public hospitals. The remaining used a combination of both.
“The primary healthcare facilities are disappearing. Most civic dispensaries are shut during the evening hours and a daily wage earner is unable to use the services,” said Milind Mhaske, project director, Praja Foundation.