63 million people fall below poverty line due to health expenses

ENARADA, Bengaluru, March 20, 2016

By Guruprasad

Around 63 million people in our country are pushed to poverty due to health expenses. The National Health Policy cites this as a significant reason for a new health charter as it seeks to ensure universal access to affordable health care.

Dr. Bhujang Shetty, Ophthalmologist and chairman & managing director of Narayana Nethralaya.

Dr. Bhujang Shetty, Ophthalmologist and chairman & managing director of Narayana Nethralaya.

Explaining the issue, noted ophthalmologist and chairman & managing director of Narayana Nethralaya, Dr K Bhujang Shetty said, “Currently, if we look at health sector, there are a huge shortage of man power; 1 million doctors, 2 million nurses and 3 million beds. Now, it is time for the government to step in so that ordinary men can access health care. It is time to make health also a fundamental right. The only way is for the government to step in and make universal assistance for health especially for the poor and the needy. Currently, if we look at the spending in health sector, India spends close to 1.3 per cent of its GDP on health while China spends close to 3 pc and USA-8 pc. So, we need to spend at least 2.5 pc of our GDP on health.”

Every year, around 63 million people fall below poverty line as they cannot afford health expenses. They are forced to sell their houses or lands for making a living. The only way forward is by bringing the health insurance scheme for common man as 80 pc of the players are private players, according to Dr Shetty.

“Currently, health insurance is covered only for 15 per cent of population and as no one can predict health insurance schemes, we need to make health insurance plan more popular and government should push for it. Currently some of the government schemes like Yashaswini have helped a lot of patients. Hence for making all kinds of medical services accessible to common people, the central and state governments should bring requisite improvement in the infrastructure, policies and procedures, with the allocation of adequate resources. For this, coordinated expansion, regulation, teaching and research are promoted in all the systems of medicine, and the regulatory mechanism and statutory provisions are executed transparently, “he added.

It may be recalled that neo poverty related to health expenses has turned out to be a global phenomenon. For example, even the U.S. Census Bureau had mentioned that the growing burden of health care costs in family budgets was impoverishing millions of U.S. families. Using an experimental “supplemental poverty measure,” that adjusts income for in-kind income transfers like food stamps as well as significant costs such as payroll taxes, the US report had stressed that if health care costs were subtracted from family incomes, 10 million more people in the United States would be officially poor.

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