The Hindu published an editorial titled Spending for a healthy India on March 9, 2012 highlighting the importance of tax-based universal healthcare by 2017. That should be the goal of the Twelfth Plan. The aim is to reduce out-of-pocket spending on healthcare that is pushing many Indians into poverty – simply because a massive health setback forces them to sell assets and use all savings to meet the costs of healthcare in costly, for-profit hospitals.
Today, the newspaper has a podcast of a translation of the editorial on its website here. This is one of the most important items on the agenda of health economists and activists in the country. Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, the cardiologist and moving force behind the Public Health Foundation of India, led a High Level Experts Group which reported to the Planning Commission on the issue. They have a report which is as significant to India, as the Beveridge report that led to the formation of the National Health Service was to the UK.
Unless Indians acknowledge and work for universal healthcare, the same fear of pauperisation that stalked Britons in the horror of World War II, will continue to haunt millions in India. Private health insurance has proved to be a failure as the main financing mechanism in the United States, and can work even less in a low-income economy such as India. Creating a good tax-funded public health system is vital to reduce chronic illness, and thus save funds now spent on treatments for nation-building activity.