After thirteen years, a healthy
policy is now ready and the draft is seeking comments and suggestions. The
issues addressed include universal health coverage, reducing infant mortality
and maternal mortality, accessibility to free drugs and diagnostics, and
modifications in law to make them pertinent.
Countries like Brazil and Thailand
have universal health coverage schemes. Many international covenants in which
India is a joint signatory have a mandatory rule on making health coverage
schemes universal. Health care is a fundamental right as per court rulings and
is a "constitutional obligation flowing out of the right to life". These are
also stated in the draft policy.
There has been 10-years of
discussion over making health a fundamental right. However, the draft throws
questions whether India is economically sound enough and has health systems in
place to make the right justifiable. On the other hand, denying this becomes an
The Framework of the new policy
includes key proposals like: taking steps to improve the care delivery system;
Pass a National Health Rights Act in order to make health a basic right; Public
health expenditure increased to 2.5 percent of GDP; Universal access to free
drugs and diagnostics in Government hospitals; Creating a health cess similar
to that of education cess.
"The Centre shall enact, after
due discussion and on the request of three or more states a National Health
Rights Act, which will ensure health as a fundamental right, whose denial will
be justiciable," the draft says.
"The States would voluntarily opt
to adopt this by a resolution of their Legislative Assembly. The States which
have achieved a per capita public health expenditure rate of over Rs. 3,800 per
capita (at current prices) should be in a position to deliver on this - and
though many States are some distance away, there are States which are
approaching or have even reached this target" says the policy.
"However, given that the NHP 2002
target of 2 percent was not met, and taking into account the financial
capacity of the country to provide this amount and the institutional capacity
to utilise the increased funding in an effective manner, this policy proposes
a... potentially achievable target of raising public health expenditure to 2.5
percent of the GDP" the policy notes.