Mumbai: Over 72% of the rural and 79% of the urban population rely on private hospitals for treatment, says a recent survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).

During a 15-day reference period, 89 of every 1,000 persons—Proportion of Ailing Persons (PAP)—reported an illness in rural India, against 118 persons in urban areas.

Though the number of people in need of treatment is lesser in rural India, the untreated spell was higher in rural areas, reveals the survey.

The survey conducted from January to June 2014 was aimed at generating basic quantitative information on the health sector. The sample consisted of 4,577 villages and 3,720 urban blocks. The survey included 36,480 households in rural India and 29,452 in urban India.

Considering medical treatment of an ailing person as someone who was an in-patient in any medical institution, the survey found that in the urban population 4.4% were hospitalised at some time during a reference period of one year while this ratio was 3.5% in rural India.

In rural India, 42% of hospitalised treatment was carried out in public hospitals. In urban India, the corresponding figure were 32%.

The survey also showed a clear preference for allopathic treatment (90%) over AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga, unani, siddha and homoeopathy) in both rural and urban areas.

Since both rural and urban sets depended on private hospitals for treatment, their spending for hospitalisation was also higher. The average cost of treatment in a private hospital was 25,850 as compared to 6,120 charged in a public hospital.

The highest expenditure was recorded for treatment of cancer ( 56,712), followed by that for cardiovascular diseases ( 31,647). Average medical expenditure per non-hospitalisation case was 509 in rural India and 639 in urban India.

“The minimum budget for public health should be at least 3-5% of the GDP and we are not even close to that. Dependence of the population on private hospitals shows a trust deficit in the public health services amongst people," said Dr Rana Mehta, executive director, Healthcare Practice, PwC.

Incidentally, 86% of rural and 82% of urban population are not covered under any scheme of health expenditure support. To pay for treatment, rural households primarily depended on their ‘household income/savings’ (68%) and on borrowings (25%) whereas urban households relied much more on their ‘income/saving’ (75%) for financing expenditure on hospitalisation, than on borrowings (only 18%).

Only 12% of urban and 13% of the rural population is under health protection coverage through Rastriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) or similar government schemes.

“Approximately 22% of Indians are below poverty line and if their savings are being used to pay for health then this could indicate one of the contributing factors to their poverty," Mehta said. He said RSBY had failed to make an impact.

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