“Sir, you have Cancer and you need to get this treated “
“Madam, everybody has to die one day and what’s the point? If I eat these expensive medicines my family will die of poverty.”
This is was an honest reply given by a Cancer patient, when he was informed of his impending doom. Heart breaking right? People prefer death over life !
In fact the gravity of the situation can be also be assessed with the following scenario. If a person were diagnosed with Diabetes, his monthly expenditure on the management of this disease alone would cost anywhere between ₹3,000 to ₹8,000. Can a farmer who barely manages to earn any profit from farming afford this?
Despite having a strong healthcare infrastructure, the price of health care is extremely high in India and on top of it, only 27% of the population is covered under healthcare insurance. (Latest online statistics)
Meaning, for the rest of the 73% of the population, a visit or admission into a hospital could wipe off their hard earned savings.
Why is healthcare so expensive in India?
A) Lopsided services
In rural and semi-urban India primary and secondary healthcare centers barely function either due to shortage of doctors or due to lack of infrastructure, forcing people to visit expensive private hospitals
2) High cost of medicines
Despite being a pharmaceutical hub, the rate of medical drugs have been exorbitant in the country. Companies create newer (and unwanted) combination drugs and raise the prices of the medicine. A patient has no choice but to purchase these medicines despite the availability of cheaper generic drugs.
3) Awareness of insurance:
As mentioned earlier, the knowledge of health care insurance is extremely low in the country. Plus the several insurance providers only cover major diseases and several diseases like Leprosy, Diabetes and dental conditions are uncovered only causing more heartache to the already troubled common man.
The government will have to make a complete overhaul in the Indian health care system if it is serious about keeping its workforce healthy.
Firstly doctors serving in rural areas must be paid attractive salaries. Secondly infrastructure at government owned hospitals must be at par with those in private hospital.
When it comes to high cost of medicines, the government must be commended as a National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority that has already capped the prices of 300 drugs. But the government will have to stick to its stand as several pharmaceutical giants are planning to challenge this move in the Supreme Court.
While India has come a long way from being a land of the malnourished we still have a long way to go in achieving a completely healthy India. Only time will tell if the government can deliver!