As we approach General Elections 2019, various bodies are scripting a health manifesto and demanding that the ruling party, whichever one it may be, should commit to ensuring the highest attainable standard of health as one of the fundamental rights of every citizen of the country.
For India, this translates to delivering First World healthcare at Third World costs, to a legal obligation of the government to ensure access to timely, acceptable, and affordable healthcare. It presupposes that the government will be able to increase public expenditure on health to 3.5 percent of GDP, and 5 percent of GDP in the medium term.
The current scheme, claimed as the world’s largest free healthcare scheme has drawn flak from various quarters. Jan Swasthya Abhiyan in its People’s Health Manifesto 2019 has demanded that the Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme – based on the discredited insurance model, despite massive evidence against the effectiveness of such insurance based schemes involving major participation of the private sector in service delivery – be absorbed under a strengthened, well-funded public health system, and a right to health act which includes a patients’ charter.
Senior doctors at a recent AIIMS event in New Delhi, questioned its potential, claiming it was an official channel through which public money could go to the private sector; shifting stance from providing services to purchasing services mostly from the private sector is an abdication of the government’s basic responsibility, and providing insurance is less efficient than direct provision of health services with strengthened public health infrastructure.
In a recent research paper by IIM-Ahmedabad faculty members, concern has been raised on skepticism amongst physicians who are central to the success of the proposed data based ecology of the ambitious healthcare initiative. Collecting data and storing it in the cloud would not only compromise a patient’s privacy, there exists a possibility of human error and manipulation, which would impact a physician’s reputation and establishment, and become a logistic nightmare for hospitals without internet connectivity.
With increasing teledensity, TV footprint, and internet, the average Indian is demanding his fundamental right to healthcare!