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IMA urges all parties for 5% GDP to health in election manifesto

The national allocation for the health sector should be increased from the existing 1.1 per cent to 5 per cent of the GDP, or at least be enhanced to 2.5 per cent. The present allocation is the lowest in the world, read the health manifesto prepared by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

The manifesto was submitted to all political parties to be included in their election manifestos for the Lok Sabha polls.

Dr RV Asokan, national president of IMA, said the allocation varies from 1.1 per cent to 1.6 per cent of the GDP, cumulatively by various governments. Also, expenditure incurred on health determinants like drinking water and sanitation should be provided separately. The manifesto says India’s overall health spend (public and private) is currently estimated to be 3.8 per cent of its GDP, lower than Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC) whose average health spend is around 5.2 per cent of their GDP. India’s health system is overwhelmingly financed by out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure incurred by households (around 63 per cent of all health spending).

The manifesto also highlights the need for having a universal healthcare package instead of the present insurance model system. Asokan said every citizen should have the right to basic treatment. The main player in healthcare should be the public sector, with a tax funded model. An ill citizen should not be burdened with additional costs and taxes. While treatment for the poor is free in government hospitals, the government should sponsor their treatment in private hospitals too.

The manifesto also referred to its committee’s recommendation of a model to strengthen the public sector, which is now with the Planning Commission. Dr Asokan said the government should not link facilities given at a government hospital under Ayushman Bharat. He said treatment is subsidised in government hospitals, and free for the poor. Instead, it should be given in private hospitals. The IMA’s manifesto also highlights the need to reduce the GST burden. At present, patients are taxed for medicines, bed and other medical supplies.

“Instead of helping a patient, hospitals and the government are taxing them. The law needs to change, somebody has to speak up and do it. There should also be scientific costing of services in hospitals, a thorough study done and rates fixed. Today, hospitals charge hefty rates, burdening patients,” he added. New Indian Express

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