Scraping the bottom of the worlds barrel when it comes to spending on public health, the Government is finally trying to move up. It has now set up the National Commission on Macro Economics and Health to assess the cost and means of funding a comprehensive health package which will ensure that the poor get free treatment for 80 per cent of their ailments, even at a nearby private health facility.
Set up on April 1, the commission, co-chaired by the Union Health and Finance Ministers, includes Secretaries of Finance, Planning Commision, Health and Family Welfare, Infosys mentor N R Narayana Murthy, country heads of World Bank and World Health Organisation (WHO).
It is expected to submit its report within a year.
Based on the report, the government may double the health budget, which is less than one per cent of the GDP at present. Noted scientist Ranjit Roy Chaudhary will chair the sub-commission which prepares the report and will serve as the actual operational group for the exercise.
We will try to find out how much money will be required and how the government can get the money. It can be by increasing the budget or from donor agencies. Tax-payers and government employees may also have to share the burden, said Sujata Roa, Secretary of the Commission.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Rao said: The package will not include services for rare disease conditions like cancer or liver implants but those diseases which are the most prevalent in our society. The government wants to ensure cost-effective and easily available treatment, within a limited area.
Public health expenditure
% of GDP India - 0.9 Pakistan - 0.9 Nepal - 1.6 Sri Lanka - 1.8 What the commission has to do: Assess cost, means of funding health package Identify possible tie-ups with private doctors, hospitals Design a set of essential services for all Initiate multi-layer programme to strengthen health system Suggest critical systemic reformsThe commission has been set up in response to the Jeffrey Sachs Report submitted to WHO two years ago, which advocated an increase in the health expenditure in developing countries. The report had recommended that commissions be formed to assess the ground situation.
India has become one of the 15 countries in the world to follow up the report, said Roy Chaudhary.
The objective, according to officials, is to assess the impact of increasing the expenditure in the health sector. The ultimate goal is poverty reduction and economic development.
Besides identifying the priority areas in the health sector which need to be addressed, the commission will have to come up with financing strategies to address these needs. This will mean asssessing the magnitude of financial resources required from both domestic and external sources.
The other targets of the commission are:
To design a set of essential services to be made available to the entire population.
To initiate a multi-layer programme for strengthening the health system, with focus on strengthening the local level, including upgrading infrastructure.
To suggest critical systemic reforms for removing non-financial constraints.
To establish qualified targets for reduction in the burden of diseases.
To identify key health synergies with other sectors, private doctors and hospitals.
Fifty per cent of the in-patient treatment in India happens through private sector and so does 80 per cent of out-patient treatment. So we might even tie up with them, so that patients can get quality treatment where they want it, said Roy Chaudhary.
The commission is likely to meet once every four months to review the performance of the sub-commission. It will also conduct meetings, workshops and seminars on major health-related issues, and will have access to all studies on specific issues as well as information data on related topics from the concerned administrative ministries.