Health cover: Too little, too scarce

80% not covered by any insurance, dependent on private sector for treatment.

Over 80 per cent of India’s population is not covered under any health insurance scheme, says the latest National Sample Survey (NSS) released on Monday. The data reveals that despite seven years of the Centre-run Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), only 12 per cent of the urban and 13 per cent of the rural population had access to insurance cover.

Around 86 per cent of the rural population and 82 per cent of the urban population were not covered under any scheme of health expenditure support, the data showed.

Further, it was found that coverage is correlated with living standards, as in urban areas, over 90 per cent of the poorest residents are not covered, while the figure is 66 per cent for the richest residents. According to the report, “The poorer households appear unaware or are beyond the reach of such coverage, both in rural and urban areas.”

Showcase without reach

“This has been evident for a while. RSBY has become a showcase tool than actually reaching people in any large numbers.

Instead, it basically produces an assembly line of patients for the private hospitals and is actively putting our health sector in a crisis. There is global empirical evidence that health systems that pour tax payers money into outsourcing treatment to the private sector, ratchet up the cost of care, while not providing any care to those who need,” said Dr Amit Sengupta, General Secretary of the India chapter of the People’s Health Movement.

Private doctors emerged as the single-most significant source of treatment in both rural and urban areas. The survey found that 72 per cent of the treatment provided in rural areas and 79 per cent in urban areas was availed in the private sector.

In the previous round of this survey, the corresponding figures were 78 per cent in rural areas and 81 per cent in urban areas, which shows that the overall share of public sector saw a slight increase.

The rural population spent, on an average, Rs.5,636 for hospitalised treatment in a public sector hospital and Rs.21,726 at a private sector hospital.

The biggest hurdle in seeking medical treatment was “financial constraint”, reported by over 55 per cent and 60 per cent people in rural and urban areas, respectively. In rural areas, the next most important reason was “no medical facility available in neighbourhood”, accounting for 15 per cent cases, while this figure was just 1.3 per cent for urban areas.

Source: The Hindu



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