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The time has come to switch to tax-funded universal healthcare model

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) called for tax-funded universal healthcare model like in the UK instead of insurance linked health coverage prevalent in the country.

IMA president Dr RV Asokan, who was in the city on Saturday, said the time has come for a tax-based system of health financing as contributory health insurance offers incomplete coverage and restricted services.

“The state has an obligation to provide appropriate medical care and the entitlement should be for a basic health package for every citizen in primary, secondary and tertiary care. Universal health care should be ensured primarily by the public sector supplemented with strategic purchase from the private sector,” he said.

The elite apex body of Indian medical professionals, which recently submitted the Health Manifesto 2050 to several parties, stressed universal healthcare should move from an aspirational goal to an entitled provision in no time. Highlighting India’s overall health spending (public and private) is currently estimated to be 3.8 per cent of its GDP, lower than the average (5.2 per cent) of low and middle income countries, the association said, the country’s health system is overwhelmingly financed by out-of-pocket expenditures incurred by households (around 63 per cent of all health spending).

“The allocation varying from 1.1 per cent to 1.6 per cent of the GDP by various governments is one of the lowest in the world. The minimum allocation for health alone should be around 2.5 per cent of the GDP,” Dr Asokan said.

The IMA president also demanded to tackle antimicrobial resistance, which has emerged as a major threat for both humans and animals. He also advocated for a stringent regulatory system for quality of drugs stating that quality assurance of the drugs manufactured in the country should be a top priority.

“GST on drugs and medical equipment levied at five per cent to 18 per cent needs a reconsideration considering the fact drugs form the substantial portion of out-of-pocket expenditure,” he pointed out.

The IMA has also proposed the government for re-envision of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) to cover ambulance care and cost of drugs besides reviving the Indian Medical Services discontinued since 1948. An all-India cadre of doctors would be more sensitive to the needs of the patients and clinicians, it said. The New Indian Express

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