The government, when it came to power, promised to provide accessible, affordable, and accountable healthcare facilities for all sections of the country. Universal Health Coverage for All was the slogan. Specifically, FDI liberalization, soft loans for manufacturing plants, setting up of medical devices parks, delinking medical devices from pharmaceutical regulations, commencement of NHSRC as a WHO-collaborating center, establishment of model rural health research units, and opening trauma centers on highways, were some promises the industry hoped to ride on.
However, government interest in keeping this promise seems to be fading. In the 12th Five Year Plan, the estimated expenditure requirement was Rs. 10.7 lakh crore, allocation was made for Rs. 3.8 lakh crore, and only Rs. 30,000 crore has been disbursed till now.
The revised public health expenditure, from 5 percent to 2.5 percent of GDP, translating to Rs. 3800 per capita, in absolute terms, too no longer seems to be on the agenda.
The private sector cannot be faulted in any way. Of the total Rs. 10 lakh crore healthcare market, the share of the private sector providers is 80 percent. And there is promise of more.
We have been warned by international experts that Indian disease burden is much higher than that of other emerging countries such as China, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Sri Lanka. India loses 6 percent of its GDP annually because of premature deaths and preventable illnesses. India will lose Rs. 300 lakh crore around 2030 because of the economic impact of non-communicable diseases alone. The fact that Delhi, accompanied by Lucknow, Faridabad, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Varanasi, and Agra, is now among the most polluted cities in the world, having overtaken Jinan, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, is a case in point.
There exists a strong correlation between the state of health and productivity of a nation's workforce and its economic growth and development. A country can build a strong foundation for economic success and prosperity, only by investing in the health of its population. The government cannot lose its focus now!