Govt plans mega health scheme

Govt plans mega health scheme

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has chalked out an ambitious healthcare plan that will begin with distribution of medicines at public healthcare centres.

It has also plans of creating “cashless outpatient departments” in government hospitals and making substantial improvements to primary healthcare in the long run.

The programme is aimed at wooing voters in the 2014 general election. An announcement to this effect is expected to be made on Monday in the Presidential address and allocation for the plan will be made in the budget through a universal health coverage (UHC ) scheme to be rolled out in the next plan period starting April 1.

At the core of this mega healthcare scheme will be a national programme on free supply of essential medicines to everyone seeking healthcare in any public facility.

A high-level expert group set up by the Planning Commission had pointed out that low public spending on drugs and non-availability of free medicines in government healthcare facilities are major factors discouraging people from accessing public sector health facilities.

Recommendations of the panel headed by K Srinath Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India, form the bedrock of the UHC plan.

An increase in the public procurement of medicines from around 0.1 per cent to 0.5 per cent of GDP may ensure universal access to essential drugs, greatly reduce the burden of private out of pocket expenditure and increase the financial protection for household.

“As much as 75 per cent spending on healthcare in India is private out-of-pocket expenditure while the state pays for only 25 per cent; and that too mostly in hospitalisation costs. We have recommended investing more in preventive primary care so that hospital costs go down,” A K Shiva Kumar, one of the members of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council and a member of the Reddy panel, told Deccan Herald.

To ensure that the programme works efficiently, the Centre approved a central procurement authority on the basis of the Tamil Nadu Medical services Corporation model where bulk procurement is done directly through authorised and certified medicine manufacturers of quality generic medicines through a transparent bidding process.

This encourages use of generic names at all stages of procurement, distribution, prescription, drug information and rational use at every level of healthcare system.

“However, we need very good accounting and technology support for successful implementation,” Shiva Kumar said.

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