The Indian Medical Association (IMA) advocates for a tax-funded universal healthcare model, diverging from the prevalent insurance-based system. Dr. RV Asokan, IMA’s President, emphasizes the need for comprehensive healthcare accessible to every citizen, stressing the state’s responsibility. The association highlights India’s inadequate health expenditure and the heavy reliance on out-of-pocket expenses. Dr. Asokan also urges action against antimicrobial resistance and stringent drug quality regulation. The IMA proposes reforms to the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) and the revival of the Indian Medical Services. These initiatives aim to enhance healthcare access, affordability, and quality.
India’s healthcare landscape faces critical challenges, prompting the Indian Medical Association (IMA) to advocate for sweeping reforms. Dr. RV Asokan, IMA’s President, underscores the urgency for a tax-funded universal healthcare model, arguing against the limitations of the current insurance-linked system. With healthcare expenditure below global averages and a significant burden of out-of-pocket expenses, India’s healthcare accessibility remains inequitable. Dr. Asokan also addresses emerging threats like antimicrobial resistance and calls for robust drug quality regulation. The IMA’s proposals seek to transform healthcare delivery, ensuring comprehensive coverage and quality care for all citizens.
During his visit to the city on Saturday, Dr. Asokan underscored the urgency for a tax-based healthcare financing system, citing the inadequacies of contributory health insurance which offer only partial coverage and limited services. Emphasizing the state’s responsibility to furnish appropriate medical care, he stressed the necessity for a comprehensive health package accessible to every citizen across primary, secondary, and tertiary care sectors. Dr. Asokan articulated that universal healthcare must be primarily facilitated by the public sector, with supplementary support from strategic engagements with the private sector.
As a leading authority representing medical professionals in India, the IMA has recently submitted the Health Manifesto 2050 to various political entities, advocating for universal healthcare to transition from an aspirational goal to an indispensable entitlement. The association lamented India’s meager health expenditure, currently estimated at 3.8% of its GDP, well below the average of 5.2% observed in low and middle-income countries. Notably, the bulk of healthcare financing in India relies heavily on out-of-pocket expenditures borne by households, accounting for approximately 63% of total health spending.
Dr. Asokan highlighted the paltry allocation ranging from 1.1% to 1.6% of the GDP for healthcare by successive governments, characterizing it as one of the lowest in the world. He asserted that a minimum allocation of 2.5% of the GDP is imperative to adequately address healthcare needs.
Addressing another pressing concern, Dr. Asokan called for concerted efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance, a burgeoning threat affecting both humans and animals. He advocated for the establishment of a stringent regulatory framework to uphold the quality of drugs, underscoring the paramount importance of ensuring the efficacy and safety of pharmaceuticals manufactured in the country. Dr. Asokan also scrutinized the prevailing Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates imposed on drugs and medical equipment, ranging from 5% to 18%, arguing for reconsideration in light of the substantial burden they impose on out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.
Furthermore, the IMA put forth proposals to reform the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), urging for the inclusion of ambulance services and coverage for the cost of drugs. Additionally, the association advocated for the revival of the Indian Medical Services, which had been discontinued since 1948, proposing the establishment of an all-India cadre of doctors to enhance patient-centric healthcare delivery and foster greater sensitivity among clinicians towards patient needs.
The Indian Medical Association’s call for a tax-funded universal healthcare model signals a pivotal moment in India’s healthcare trajectory. Dr. RV Asokan’s advocacy for comprehensive coverage, stringent regulation, and enhanced public health financing reflects a holistic approach to addressing systemic deficiencies. By prioritizing equitable access, affordability, and quality, the proposed reforms aim to reshape India’s healthcare landscape. Embracing universal healthcare as an entitlement rather than an aspiration holds the promise of fostering healthier communities and bolstering the nation’s resilience against emerging health threats. The IMA’s vision for transformative healthcare underscores the imperative for concerted action towards realizing a healthier, more prosperous India.