Universal health care should be a polling priority

Dr. Arun Mitra

With the election process already underway, health is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by the political parties. Health is a matter of serious concern for the people as according to the government itself, more than 6 crore people have been pushed into poverty due to out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare. The health activists are demanding that the state take its responsibility to guarantee the health of everyone. It is therefore important that political parties prioritize the concept of universal healthcare in their agenda so that the health needs of every citizen are met without any discrepancy on the basis of religion, caste, creed, gender or economic status. It is therefore pertinent that the government should intervene directly in making policies that meet people’s health needs. Political parties must commit to making health a fundamental right and pledge to increase healthcare spending to 6% of GDP.
The right to health is a fundamental human right recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). It is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The right to health extends beyond health care to the underlying determinants of health, such as access to drinking water, sanitation, adequate food, nutrition and housing, healthy working and environmental conditions, and access to health-related education and information. The right to health is inextricably linked to other human rights, such as the right to food, housing, work, education, information and participation. Everyone should have access to the healthcare they need, where and when they need it, without facing financial difficulties.
To comply with this, the world organization took the initiative to hold an international meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 1978. The conference came up with a declaration on health, popularly known as the Alma Ata Declaration. This statement pointed out that the existing gross inequalities in the health status of people, especially between developed and developing countries and between the rich and the poor within countries, are politically, socially and economically unacceptable. The conference realized that a significant portion of global resources are now spent on armaments and military conflicts. A genuine policy of independence, peace, detente and disarmament could and should free up additional resources that could well be spent on peaceful purposes and in particular on accelerating social and economic development of which basic health care, as an essential component, would must be deployed. assigned the correct part.
Since India has signed this declaration, our government is obliged to take steps to ensure universal healthcare. But even today, the health scenario in our country is far from satisfactory. The fundamental determinants of health are still not within the reach of all citizens. There is a lack of health education, which means that a large part of the population still uses non-evidence-based and even mythical healthcare resources. Both communicable and non-communicable diseases are on the rise in the country.
Whatever the government may claim, we have failed to prevent several thousand deaths due to mismanagement and skewed priorities during the COVID pandemic. Thousands of people had to walk to their hometowns without any government support for food, shelter and transportation. This placed them at serious physical and mental health risks.
The healthcare system around the world can be divided into 5 main categories: Universal, publicly funded healthcare system; Universal Public Insurance System; Universal public-private insurance system; Universal private health insurance system; Non-universal insurance system.
Under the framework of universal publicly funded health care systems, also recognized as single-payer health care, publicly funded health care extends to all citizens regardless of income or employment status. This system has produced good results, as we can see in Great Britain, Canada, Cuba and several other countries. Insurance-based health care has betrayed people’s aspirations on two counts. Firstly, this is a premium-based system and any costs beyond the premium must be paid by the insurer. The second point is that this denigrates the basic concept of health as society’s responsibility, because it is the corporations that own the insurance system. Even if health insurance is paid by the government in some cases, it is the corporate insurers that benefit from the public purse. It has also been observed that the senior citizens suffer the most at the hands of these companies.
The passage of the Right to Healthcare Bill by the Rajasthan Assembly is a long-awaited demand of the citizens and demand of the healthcare organizations. —(IPA)