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.
AdvertisementThere 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 offence.
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.