India reveals ‘world’s largest’ public healthcare scheme

Union Budget 2018 brought some cheer on the face of poor. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced health insurance scheme which will cover around 100 million poor and vulnerable Indians.

Public Healthcare

It’s thought to be one of the largest such schemes in the world, and is likely to be popular with rural voters. India presently spends a little over 1% of its GDP on public healthcare. It is one of the lowest in the world.

Healthcare expenses are a major cause of impoverishment of working families in India. The low spending nature of Indian government led public hospitals to appalling condition.

Since the condition of government hospital is in doldrums, people are forced to seek private healthcare facilities. Due to this, today nearly 70 per cent of national health spending comes out of pocket from patients and their families. Many people take loan from moneylenders, who provide quick cash at high interest rates.

The healthcare scheme

Arun Jaitley presented the final budget of the current term. Since elections in around 8 states are approaching, pressure mounted on him to present a lucrative budget. Due to this, he also pumped huge amount of money in health, education, social security and rural infrastructure sectors.

He said the flagship health insurance scheme would cover more than 100 million poor families and provide 500,000 rupees in medical coverage for each family annually.

“This will be the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme,” Mr. Jaitley told parliament in his speech.

“The government is steadily but surely progressing towards a goal of universal health coverage.”

Is This Enough?

Although it is laudable to give medical coverage to the poor, it is still in planning stage. A lot of things are not clear. Framework to gather money for the scheme needs explaination. No decision made to check the monopoly of the private hospitals. It is also not clear that how government will protect poor from the exploitation from the private hospitals. Just providing insurance and not revamping public healthcare facilities is obviously not enough.

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