3rd August, 2019, Madras School of Economics, Chennai: The Chennai International Centre (an organization providing a platform for intellectuals and luminaries to share transformational ideas) invited an expert panel to talk on Indian Healthcare Services. The panel members comprising Dr. Shailender Swaminathan (Health Economist, Researcher, Associate Dean – SLABS, SRMU – AP, Amaravati), Dr. Keshav Desiraju (Former Health Secretary, Government of India), Dr. Soumya Swaminathan (Chief Scientist, WHO) discussed the significance of a holistic approach in the healthcare sector with moderator Dr. Nalini Krishnan, Director, REACH – Resource Group of Education and Advocacy for Community Health. Panelists addressed the inaccessibility of medical facilities in India stemming primarily from a lack of government funding, high cost of drugs and the low literacy rate. The panel also recognized how this inaccessibility leads to poor utilization of technology and low insurance penetration.
“How India is able to fund healthcare five years from now is of significance,” opined Dr. Shailender Swaminathan, citing the US healthcare system, “The U.S. aimed at funding healthcare services of people over 65 years through the contribution of younger citizen and taxpayers. This previously successful U.S. model is on the verge of failure as the cost of drugs increased at a higher pace exhausting the funds.”
Pointing out that policies must be directed towards reducing the poverty rate in India to suffice for increasing healthcare expenses, Dr. Swaminathan added that “High expenditure on healthcare services leaves no funds for purchasing basic consumption goods, further pushing citizens below the poverty line. “
He explained that insurance policies in India cover only hospitalization bills whereas outpatients (patients who do not require hospitalization) are unable to pay the daily medical expenses. This lack of outpatient insurance drives up insurance costs, as minor health issues are not treated, leading to eventual hospitalization of the patient.
According to Dr. Swaminathan an integrated approach towards healthcare would prompt the government to provide free diagnostic and treatment services of high quality to outpatients. The panel concluded that the government must focus on primary healthcare services, prevention of diseases, insurance inclusivity and healthcare promotion.
Healthcare panel in discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShU1nH1w0Fo