The biggest barrier to universal health coverage is the huge shortage in workforce needed to deliver the promised services. (Photo: HT)
The biggest barrier to universal health coverage is the huge shortage in workforce needed to deliver the promised services. (Photo: HT)

As govt begins fresh innings, all eyes on healthcare promise

  • Both central and state budgetary allocations will have to be raised steadily every year to increase its public health spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2025
  • NHP 2017 affirms that two-thirds of public financing will go to primary health services

NEW DELHI: The government will have to focus on the major health initiatives that played a pivotal role in wooing voters and helped the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) come back to power at the centre. The Bharatiya JanataParty (BJP)’s election manifesto for the Lok Sabha election promised universal health coverage (UHC).

The key health initiatives of the previous government included Ayushman Bharat, price cuts for essential drugs and implants, and the introduction of health-related bills such as Mental Health Act, 2017, and HIV/AIDS Act, 2017, besides reviving the National Health Policy (NHP).

“Continuity in the national leadership should provide an opportunity to implement all the key elements of the NHP of 2017," said K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India. “The major areas to focus on are health financing, health workforce, improvement of service provision and regulation. All of these are critical for achieving UHC, which we have adopted as a target for 2030."

Both central and state budgetary allocations will have to be raised steadily every year to increase its public health spending to 2.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

“As front end spending is needed to strengthen the health system, the first Union budget of the new government must show 25-30% rise compared to the previous budget. States should be stimulated to increase their health budgets in parallel," Reddy added.

NHP 2017 affirms that two-thirds of public financing will go to primary health services that are the foundational basis of an effective and equitable health system. In this regard, health experts claim that it is important to link both the components of Ayushman Bharat—the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) and primary health centres.

“Both need to link well with these district services for providing advanced care when needed. They are presently limited to 40% of the population and should evolve pathways to provide UHC through merger of multiple financing schemes into a ‘single payer’ system, and enabling the other 60% of the population to enrol through income graded premiums," said Reddy.

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