Saturday, June 4th, 2016

Why we need a universal health service

Rajkumari Tankha | June 4, 2016 12:04 pm Print
A look at the reasons on why we in India need a universal health service on the lines of the one that is in place in United Kingdom
Patients line-up for medicines : PIx for representational purposes only

The government should launch a universal health service on the lines of UK’s National Health Service to ensure that every citizen of the country is covered as health for all will not be possible without putting such a scheme in place.

“Everyone should enroll for some insurance; everyone should pay for their health be it Rs 1 or Rs 10 a day as per individual’s capacity, and the government and taxpayers should contribute for people who cannot pay at all,” said Dr M C Mishra, Director, All India Institute Of Medical Sciences, Delhi.
“There is an urgent need to put in place Universal Health Service in our country; I see is no other way in which we can tackle the challenges being faced by health sector in India,” he added.

“We have 130 crore people in India and even if each one of us contributes only Rs 1 a day, you can imagine what we can gather. Everybody is not sick at the same time; out of 130 crore may be 10 crore are sick at one time. If everyone is contributing in some form or the other it won’t be very difficult to fund those 10 crore who are sick at any given point of time out of the funds that are generated by 130 crore people jointly,” he added.

“But the problem in our country is that a vast majority of people are looking for free healthcare from the Government without paying a single penny for it,” he stated.

Dr Mishra said that Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme which is financed by contributions raised from employees (1.75 per cent of wages) covered under the scheme and their employers (4.75 per cent of wages) is an excellent scheme and shows the way forward in this regard.
Quoting figures, he said in 2014 AIIMS-Delhi saw almost 3.3 million patients. Of this 22 % came from Uttar Pradesh (UP), 11 per cent were from Bihar while 11 per cent belonged to Haryana, Punjab and Jharkhand. “The situation is more or less same in all Central and Delhi government hospitals in the city,” he informed.

“Most of these people come here to get reasonable quality treatment that is not available in their home states. Providing quality healthcare service is something that the Government should aim at in all government hospitals in all the states across the country,” he remarked.

“The state of medical facilities in states has been going down, particularly in UP. This can be witnessed from the fact that in 1980, the year I joined AIIMS, the number of patients coming from UP was very-very small, but it has increased tremendously in last over 20 years. If health care facilities in the government/public sector in the state was good enough the number of patients coming to Delhi wouldn’t have gone up to this extent,” said Dr Mishra.

Dr Mishra also suggested that healthcare should become one of the main topics during elections as health nowhere falls into the priority of citizens. “In fact, healthcare should top the priority list of any government. But unfortunately, in India, we have never voted-out or voted-in any government based on its performance on the healthcare front,” he said.

Rajkumari Tankha
Rajkumari Tankha
The writer is a Delhi-based journalist. She has previously worked for Ministry of I & B (Govt of India), Hindustan Times and Special Audience Publications.