The second wave of the coronavirus has ravaged the country in more ways than one. While government hospitals are overcrowded most of the time, private hospitals are often notorious for overcharging, often leaving people with very less options.
Recently, the Pune Municipal Corporation's health department issued a notice to 172 private hospitals in the city for overcharging COVID patients. Sadly, this is the scenario in most parts of the country. This leaves the poor and the vulnerable with little or no choices.
About two-thirds of Indians lack health insurance. Public spending on healthcare has been notoriously low in the country. The public healthcare system in the country, including that of the central and state government, is close to 1.3 per cent of GDP compared with the OECD countries' average of 7.6 per cent and other BRICS countries average of 3.6 per cent.
The crisis has forced people to resort to measures like selling their jewellery, mortgaging their property and drawing loans to save their loved ones. "This time what we see is the double whammy of health expenses plus loss of livelihood and related food insecurity," said Dipa Sinha, a professor of economics at Ambedkar University in Delhi, reported Business Standard. "If people are selling assets that give them livelihood then it impacts future incomes as well," she added.
For the poor, it translates into having to choose between food or saving a loved one's life, most of the times. A study in April and May among a poor community in Jharkhand found that more than half of them had borrowed money (58 per cent) and 11 per cent had sold their assets to tide over the crisis brought about the deadly second wave.