Why can't the Government make health insurance mandatory for its citizens as the US does?

Prateek Bansal, New Delhi

Mandatory health insurance is not a panacea for the problem of universal and uniform healthcare as experience from the US reveals. The hapless insured often oscillate between the hawkish insurance companies and the greedy hospitals. While the insurance companies save their skins with numerous exclusion clauses and other alibis including the ubiquitous pre-existing disease, the hospitals fleece the patients with defensive medication and needless diagnostic investigations, secure in the knowledge that the tabs are going to be picked up by the insurance companies. Much the same has been the experience of the Indian insurance companies that offer cashless facility to the insured. At any rate, the per capita income of India is way below that of the US and it would be politically suicidal for the government to make health insurance mandatory. Even in the US, the Obama administration has been buying insurance cover for the poor people at substantial cost to the exchequer. The British and Canadian universal healthcare model swings to the other extreme - everyone is eligible for free Medicare with the government footing the bill. The bottom line is long queues in government hospitals, patients driven to visiting countries such as India for urgent procedures such as like bypass surgery and the government resources bursting at the seams. Indeed, the issue of universal medicare defies a satisfactory solution that is at once acceptable and fair to all.

State funding of polls

Can State funding of elections help reduce corruption and bribery in a big way?

Ramya Vijayaraghavan, Chennai

This suggestion has been made by many well-meaning people like you. In fact, Germany has been fairly successful in state funding of elections. But one can't dismiss the sceptics here. India is a plural society in every sense of the term. . In any case, it is naive to believe that State funding per se is the solution to the problem of corruption even though political funding is admittedly the fountainhead of corruption in the country. There is an apprehension that political parties would not be content with the funds received from the government. In fact, many believe it would be a sort of top-up money, with the main source still being illegal including corporate donations in cash which in turn are responsible for tax evasion and transactions outside the books.

(This article was published on May 22, 2011)
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