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8.5 crore Indians are still impoverished by health costs

An analysis of health data over the past 10 years shows number of persons falling below poverty line have not changed in spite of claims by the Centre at having improved healthcare services.

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An analysis of health data over the past 10 years shows number of persons falling below poverty line have not changed in spite of claims by the Centre at having improved healthcare services.

8.5 core persons, or seven per cent of the Indian population have fallen below poverty due to Out of Pocket (OOP) health expenditures. "This has remained unchanged over the past ten years," points out the analysis carried out by researchers at Brookings Institution India Centre in New Delhi.

The analysis states an instance of a household with a monthly consumption of Rs 1,000, ends up incurring an expense of Rs 1,200 on hospitalisation, it is catastrophic for the family.

"Government may build a health sub-centre in a hamlet, but is it equipped with water or motorable roads is an issue not addressed by the health department of the state," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal, Regional Director, South-East Asia Region, World Health Organization.

"India should seriously work towards providing Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which means providing free services to the population as mandated under Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Private hospitals and insurance companies treat patients like ATM cash machines," said Dr K Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).

While in 2004, upto 7 persons in a population of 1,000 were not availing government services as it involved a long waiting period, this number has risen to eighteen persons per thousand in 2014. Also, while 17 sick persons in a population of 1,000 visited private set-ups for seeking care in 2004, this has risen to 23 persons in 2014.

In 2004, a rural and an urban household would almost spend the same money on medicines per patient, but in 2014, this has changed. "An urban household spends five times more on diagnostics, 2.6 times more on medicines and 2.4 times more on doctors' fees," said Shamika Ravi, lead author of the study.

Upto 55 per cent of the Indian population prefer to get admitted in private hospitals. Also, the money that patients spend out of their own pockets referred to as out-of-Pocket expenditure has increased by 20 per cent in the last ten years, National Sample Survey data from 2004 and 2014 were used to compare the sweeping changes that have occured in the health care scenario.

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