India’s health system is facing the ongoing challenges such as limited access to quality health services, high out-of-pocket health expenditures, and inadequate human resources for health. The expensive health care is a question of major concern. As per ‘Tracking Universal Health Coverage: 2017 Global Monitoring Report’ released by The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), at least half of the world’s population cannot obtain essential health services and around 100 million people (over 49 million in India) every year are being pushed into poverty, only due to out of pocket health expenditures. Every Year 7th April is celebrated as “World Health Day”. In India, about 17% of the population spends over 10% of household income towards meeting health care expenses and around 4% of population bear medical expenses account for over 25% of family income.
Considering the cost aspect, it’s essential to get an alternative arrangement that can provide you a safeguard against gigantic health expenses. Getting adequate health coverage is the best way out. Having a health cover ensures access to quality health services and it also pays your entire family’s medical bills.
In 1948, the First World Health Assembly called for the creation of a “World Health Day”. Since 1950, World Health Day has been celebrated on the 7th of April of each year.
Universal Health Coverage
In order to ensure adequate health coverage to everyone, World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing towards providing essential quality health services to everyone and everywhere. The organization is emphasizing on the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) at this World Health Day on 7th April. UHC is all about ensuring access to the health care for everyone without suffering financial hardship.
The government of India has also taken several initiatives to achieve UHC.
It is a safe delivery mobile application that aims at improving the quality of care in labor rooms especially on the day of birth and its main focus is towards maternal and neonatal survival. LaQshya has been launched in December 2017 to improve the quality of care which is being provided to the expectant mother in the labor room and maternity operation theaters, which helps prevent adverse outcomes associated with childbirth such as maternal and newborn mortality, morbidity and stillbirths. It will be implemented in Government Medical Colleges, District hospitals, Sub- District Hospitals and Community Health Centers.
Operational Guidelines for Critical Care
The Government of India had released guidelines relating to setting up of Obstetric High Dependency Units (HDUs) and Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in the year 2016. In December 2017, the government has released operational guidelines that will add up to the already existing National guidelines and help the states in setting up and operationalizing the critical care units dedicated to providing quality health services to the pregnant women and recently delivered mothers, in Medical colleges and District Hospitals.
mHealth is a safe delivery application tool having clinical instruction films on key obstetric procedures which will facilitate the health workers to implement skills into actual practice. It has already been tested in a few districts and found to be useful for health workers who indulge in maternity care.
Major Health Initiatives in Budget 2018-19
Apart from this, the government of India has made several other announcements in Budget 2018-19 to holistically address health concerns in India. The Central government allocated Rs 52,800 crore (11.5% rise from last fiscal) to health and family welfare in the Union Budget 2018-19. The govt. has also made 13% increase in funding to AYUSH ministry. The National Rural Health Mission receives the budget allocation of Rs 2100 crore and National Urban Health Mission receives Rs 875 crore.
National Health Protection Scheme
In addition to providing enhanced health budget, the govt. has also announced National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) which will provide health coverage to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families and there will be approximately 50 crore beneficiaries across the country. This health scheme will provide Rs 5 lakh health cover to each family annually for medical treatment. It aims to enhance health care facilities, especially in smaller towns and villages.
Health and Wellness Centre
In the budget speech, Finance Minister emphasized the importance of Health and Wellness Centres. The government will establish 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres, which will bring health care system closer to the homes of people. Rs 1200 crore budget has been allocated for this purpose. This flagship program will provide comprehensive health care and offer free essential drugs and diagnostic services as well.
Health Cover from Insurance Companies
In addition to government initiatives or health schemes, insurance companies are also doing their part towards ensuring ‘Health for All’ in the country. Health insurance providers have aligned their products to provide coverage that will move the country closer towards the attainment of universal health coverage.
No Pre-Policy Medical Test up to Age 45
Before issuing a health policy, the insurance company underwrites the risk prudently and for this, the applicant’s health status is evaluated by undertaking certain medical tests. However, to encourage the youth workforce to get the health insurance, most insurers don’t ask the applicants under 45 years to undergo medical tests provided there is no adverse medical history of the applicant.
Pre-existing conditions have always been a hindrance to access the benefits of health insurance. However, insurance companies have started covering pre-existing medical conditions and the commencement of coverage varies between 12 to 48 months. This coverage is provided, on the basis of medical disclosures made by the buyer at the time of buying the policy.
As per regulations set by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, health insurance providers can’t deny health insurance up to 65 years of age. The rule also specifies that all health policies shall offer lifetime renewability and insurer cannot deny renewal of a policy, except on grounds such as fraud, moral hazard or misrepresentation and the renewal cannot be rejected on arbitrary grounds.
The govt. is a major stakeholder in providing Universal Health Coverage for everyone. It has taken several key steps towards providing better & affordable health care, however, bringing innovation would be a boon to the healthcare industry. It will help develop new products and treatments, advanced diagnostic methods, efficient drug delivery systems and medical devices, resulting in more effective and less expensive treatments. Private insurers’ participation through providing the flexibility in products will also help attain the goal of ‘Health for All’ on World Health Day.