Context – India’s COVID-19 management explained by parliamentary panel and the key recommendation.
What are the key findings of parliamentary standing committee?
- Low beds ratio– Before COVID-19 pandemic, the availability of government beds were terribly low in India. This amounts to 0.55 beds per 1000 population.
- The burden of extending comprehensive healthcare has been borne by the Government hospitals as private hospitals were either “inaccessible or not affordable
- Low government spending – Public expenditure on health accounts for only 1.13% of the total health expenditure which is extremely low when compared to WHO recommendation of 5%.
- Results in lack of infrastructure in public hospitals.
- Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has capped the maximum age of entry for a standard policy at 65, which affects older citizen during such crises.
- Surge in insurance premiums up to 25 percent in the wake of the pandemic
What are the recommendations of parliamentary committee?
- Need for a comprehensive Public Health Act – Taking note of complaints against private hospitals, it advocated the need for a “comprehensive Public Health Act” at national level with provisions to keep “checks and controls” over private hospitals.
- The proposed Act should also keep a check on the black marketing of medicines and product standardization.
- The panel has called for an omnibus law that will curb profiteering during such crises and it can serve a larger purpose if it covered overall system reforms, addressing misguided policies
- Cashless health insurance– The committee strongly recommends that the target should be to make COVID-19 treatment cashless for all people that are having insurance coverage.
However, the committee missed out on a few observations–
- Surge in Insurance premiums- Insurance companies have raised the premium on health policies, especially for senior citizens, to even up to 25% of the insured value.
- Moreover, insurance regulator, IRDAI, set 65 as the maximum age of entry for a standard policy earlier this year, affecting older uninsured citizens.
What needs to be done?
- Firstly, creating an equitable framework, with the government being the single and sole payer to care providers. With this, the government is able to resist commercial pressures in determining costs.
- Secondly, the legal reform must provide for a time-bound transition to universal state-provided health services.
- Lastly, there should be more investments in health infrastructure for the rapid scaling up of public health services. The need to spend at least 2.5% of the GDP on health, the Indian government only spends about 1.3% of the GDP on the sector.