Can the European Union, which has a common currency providing financial integration, have a common healthcare delivery system providing universal healthcare to all citizens across member nations? While India is one nation unlike the EU, its geographic, language and cultural variations makes it daunting to come up with one delivery model across the country. And to top that, is a population of 1.3 billion inching towards 1.5 billion.
India has a mixed multi-payer universal healthcare model that is paid for by a combination of public and private health insurance funds along with entirely tax-funded public hospitals. Our breakthrough effort came with one singular policy push towards equipping the needy (40 per cent of population) to be able to afford health services. Previously, availing health services had pushed large portions of society into poverty and that necessitated Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yogana (AB PM-JAY).
The country hopes to further address information asymmetry and continuum of care challenges with Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) initiative. NDHM looks to create a single framework, therefore creating an equitable society. Our policy construct has been revolutionary, responsive to macro changes and has empathy underlying it. During the pandemic, the roll out of the vaccination programme, with digital certificates on completion, was on an unprecedented scale.
UHC, a reality
Our policy shifts in making UHC a reality has been structured and transformational. Few more changes that could push us further ahead on making UHC a reality would be increasing the supply of doctors and paramedical professionals; bridging the urban and rural divide and providing incentives to drive better health outcomes.
The present model of healthcare delivery is more focussed on treating than on preventing. And the structure of the sector is centred on more money for more care. We could move towards incentivising for better health outcomes. This would need the current insurance model to invert. A system that coordinates across insurer, service provider, doctors and patients eventually driving rewards for better health outcomes that would benefit the country significantly. As we move towards becoming a country with 1.5 billion people, it is critical to support a vibrant healthcare sector. This, we owe ourselves before we get to India @ 100.
(The writer is Chief Operations Officer, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru. Views are personal.)