1. Narendra Modi govt puts brakes on India’s universal health plan

Narendra Modi govt puts brakes on India’s universal health plan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked for a drastic cutback of an ambitious health care plan after cost estimates came in at $18.5 billion...

By: | New Delhi | Published: March 27, 2015 9:27 AM
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had to make difficult choices to boost economic growth – his government’s first full annual budget, announced last month, ramped up infrastructure spending, leaving less federal funding immediately available for social sectors. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked for a drastic cutback of an ambitious health care plan after cost estimates came in at $18.5 billion over five years, several government sources said, delaying a promise made in his election manifesto.

Modi has had to make difficult choices to boost economic growth – his government’s first full annual budget, announced last month, ramped up infrastructure spending, leaving less federal funding immediately available for social sectors.

The health ministry developed a draft policy on universal health care in coordination with the prime minister’s office last year. The National Health Assurance Mission aims to provide free drugs, diagnostic services and insurance for serious ailments for India’s 1.2 billion people.

The health ministry proposed rolling out the system from April 2015, and in October projected its cost as $25.5 billion over four years. By the time the project was presented to Modi in January the costs had been pared to 1.16 trillion rupees ($18.5 billion) over five years. That was still too much. The programme was not approved, three health ministry officials and two other government sources told Reuters. Three officials said the health ministry has been asked to revamp the policy, but work is yet to start.

“The constraint on India’s financial resources was conveyed to health officials, and even to those from other ministries,” said one government official who is not from the health ministry but attended the meeting where Modi was present.

The meeting was held in January and the discussions were not made public. All of the sources declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

Officials at the prime minister’s office and the finance ministry, as well as the health ministry, did not respond to requests seeking comment.
Modi’s manifesto ahead of the election that brought him to power last year accorded “high priority” to the health sector and promised a universal health assurance plan. The manifesto said previous public health schemes, that have been mired in payment delays recently, had failed to meet the growing medical needs of public.

Modi has another four years left in his first term to fulfil the promise.

India currently spends about 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, but the badly-managed public health system means funds are not fully utilised. A health ministry vision document in December proposed raising spending to 2.5 percent of GDP but did not specify a time period.

So health experts were dismayed when the federal budget for the full-year starting April raised the allocation for the country’s main health department only by about 2 percent from the previous year, less than inflation. The meagre increase dimmed prospects for the massive health plan, they said.

“How can it happen when you have truncated resources?” one health ministry official asked.


The health plan was drafted in consultation with Modi’s office and an expert panel, including an expert from the World Bank. The proposal included insurance to cover more expensive and serious ailments such as heart surgeries or organ failure.

Two government officials said this benefit will be withdrawn. The health ministry was also asked why the new plan could not be simply combined with existing health schemes.

The decision to slash the level of insurance coverage will have an impact on India’s thriving private health sector, which would have seen huge business growth as the programme channelled millions of new patients into private hospitals.

Currently only 17 percent of India’s population has some form of health insurance.

Anjan Bose of NATHEALTH, a group that represents such private firms, said the delays in the programme would disappoint both the industry and the public.

“Greater availability of funds for public health care under this programme would have further boosted growth of the private medical industry,” Bose said.

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  1. C
    Mar 27, 2015 at 11:03 pm
    India can afford such postponement because of young potion. It worries me that what happens to them when entered into fall or old age.
    1. G
      Mar 27, 2015 at 1:06 pm
      universal health can be a reality if rather than do it wastefully themselves, finance eggheads of modi sarkar simply opted for universal mediclaim, co-owning it with insurance companies. the insurance companies get extra business, sarkar pares down its costs. why can't such simple ideas be ever thought up by the finance ministry?
      1. G
        Mar 27, 2015 at 11:31 pm
        Before spending even one more paisa, we need to improve the delivery. Go to any city and you will find dispensaries where nobody shows up but they are still collecting full ries. For 60 years we have added program after program and it feeds corruption and wastes precious resources.
        1. B
          Mar 27, 2015 at 7:29 pm
          Do,not spend on luxuries of ministers, bureaucrates, subsidised food in parliament canteen, unnecessary purchase of arms worth billion of dollars which shall not ensure safety with poor health of nation. USSR had big arms but dismembered in many parts because people were divided, arms were draining the economy and many more thing. Let India is united with all faith with no ghar wapsi or irritant issues, no force become radicalised to fire on religious minority as did in Hashimpura. India can succeed with unity and health care on first priority. Our brothers and sisters are dying due to poor health. See at AIIMS, GB pant , Irwin etc. for even blood test 2 months time is given to patient. Let PM visit for his health care to these places and see as ordinary man who dies in time consuming exercise.
          1. R
            Rameswar Pattanayak
            Mar 27, 2015 at 8:28 pm
            How about starting a citizen health record keeping system linked to Aadhar Card No. Lack of health record with investigation details and treatment provided or taken by people is putting them to hardship. This can also reduce the cost of providing universal health care to all citizens of India.
            1. V
              Mar 27, 2015 at 4:55 pm
              I agree with TP. We should invest on prevention. Ban pesticides, and other halmful stuff getting into the food chain, contaminating water and air. Invest in better environment. Swach Bharat should target making everything swach
              1. V
                Mar 28, 2015 at 5:18 am
                Modi talks for the poor and walks with banias who are dirty & corrupt. Modi trying to bury the Land Rights of the poor. Modi giving slow death to his manifesto of universal health plan. Modi giving slow burial to RTI Act by not appointing CIC. Modi tweaked Companies Law for the benefit of banias. Modi takes all steps to make all PSUs sick so that the D&C Bs van take over. The farmer who met him on Chai pe Charcha has committed suicide. In the next 4 years, the country will be owned by the D&C Bs.
                1. T
                  t p
                  Mar 27, 2015 at 9:24 am
                  Prevention is better than cure.It is my sincere advice , based on my own research , that ban on junk food, trans-fat items like samosa, kachori , parantha like fried food items would reduce major diseases related to kidney , heart . So expenses on health care would automatically come down . Exercise & race in schools be made compulsory for better health benefits, digestion, growth ( physically & mentally ). All imports of edible oils, also be banned, to reduce deficit. On DD News channel , Total - Health programme is very educative & during its csating period all other channels also be prompted to do so. *** Jai Hind ***
                  1. T
                    t p
                    Mar 28, 2015 at 8:01 am
                    Thrust should be on life style improvement. Health centres be opened in each & every villages / wards with good reading material & health service provider who can advise / demonstrate the benefit of good habits & disadvantage of bad eating / living habits. *** Jai Hind ***
                    1. C
                      Mar 27, 2015 at 5:04 pm
                      If it is going to cost so much why not implement the same on age, family size and income linked and slowly extend the same to others as and when feasible????? Jaihind
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