Medical Debt Pushed 55 Million Indians Into Poverty In One Year

Published : 28 Nov 2019 9:01 AM GMT
Medical Debt Pushed 55 Million Indians Into Poverty In One YearImage Credit: Flickr/ World Bank Photo Collection

About 55 million Indians were dragged into poverty in a single year due to patient-care costs, according to a study by the Public Health Foundation of India.

Lack of affordable hospitals, doctors, ill-equipped health professionals, expensive drugs, antibiotic resistance, childhood malnutrition, neglect of women’s health and lack of funds, all have been affecting the Indian health sector. The rising costs of treatments, especially in private hospitals, are making health-care unaffordable for the people, The Tribune reported.

Leveraging doctors’ online communities through micro-sites of the pharmaceuticals has started an all-new mode of deceit by companies. A large share of India’s population seems to avoid the formal medical system and to avoid a heavy financial burden. A staggering 39 per cent do not receive any medical attention before death.

The rich prefer formal treatment even in case of a minor ailment, however, the poor might perceive an ailment worth treating when it is life-threatening. A whopping 62 per cent of Indians paid from their own pockets for their medical expenses in 2016, an annual study by global health services company Cigna showed.

The study comes at a time when the public hospitals are congested with excessive patient load and lack of resources. Even the public health budget remains pegged around one per cent of the GDP. People are therefore helpless and end up relying on private hospitals, though many cannot afford it.

The cost of healthcare in India has increased disproportionately to the incomes of people. In such a scenario, people often end up exhausting their lifelong earnings or selling assets to pay for end-of-life situations, where chances of survival are minimal.

Less than 15 per cent of the population in India today has a healthcare cover, be it community insurance, employers’ expenditure and social insurance etc.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee drew attention to the healthcare emergency in India as 80 per cent of the costs are paid from pocket and healthcare debts push four to six crore Indians into poverty every year.

Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion to cover healthcare costs in 2018; many ended up in bankruptcy eventually. More than 36 per cent have no insurance of any kind, many more have ineffective health insurance plans. Even the insured often can’t afford to pay their medical bills in the US.

Also Read: ‘Will Stop Central Healthcare Services If Pending Bills Aren’t Cleared’, Private Hospitals Warn Govt

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