Plan panel proposes health card for every citizen

Citizens to get access to quality healthcare and medicine
Last Updated 28 November 2011, 20:50 IST

The panel’s recommendations call for improvement in the quality of primary, secondary and tertiary health care with funding from the government through a national health package  providing the choice for a free and quality health care.  
Rather than merely calling to end private practice, the panel proposes to create a vastly improved public health system.

The panel, set up by the Planning Commission and headed by K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, calls for investment in public health to be increased from the current 1.4 per cent of the gross domestic product to at least 2.5 per cent before the end of the 12th plan and 3 per cent by 2022.

It also suggests that the government should ensure availability of free essential medicines by increasing public spending on drug procurement.

“The free medicines would mean essential medicines in accordance with World Health Organisation, which includes some drug for managing heart diseases and cancer as well,” Reddy told Deccan Herald. The panel called for additional resources to be collected through taxation, though it was against sectoral taxation.

"There is no disagreement on the rationale behind the recommendations and the broad frame work. The plan panel is also of the opinion that implementing the recommendation in parts would not help,” Reddy said.

However, high-cost and low-yielding subjects like cosmetic surgery have to be left out of the purview of the NHP, which would be decided jointly by the state and central government.

Recommendation of the Reddy panel are likely to be accommodated by the Plan panel, which is finalising the 12th plan in a few months.

Many suggestions of the expert panel aims at reducing out of pocket spending in healthcare. There would also be scope for contracting private doctors in the universal healthcare provisions.

Almost 70 per cent of the government's healthcare expenditure, Reddy said, had to be spent on primary healthcare including preventive and curative treatment as well as health promotions targeted towards specific risk factors.

The panel also suggests doubling the hospital bed capacity in the next two plan periods.

Regarding manpower, the panel suggests doubling the number of ASHA workers from the existing level of none per 1000 population to two per 1000 populations.

(Published 28 November 2011, 18:27 IST)

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