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The Pros & Cons Of Privatising Healthcare In India

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Over the past few decades, more and more Indians are choosing facilities of private healthcare over public or government ones. As per a study in 2012, approximately 60% of people living in urban areas choose services of the private sector over the public. It’s not just the case in urban India. People in rural India too have increased faith in the private sector. (69%)

But, what exactly does privatising healthcare mean? It means that more hospitals, medical insurance providers, medical practices would be undertaken by private enterprise (and not the government).

Below are the arguments for and against privatising healthcare:

Pro:

1. Truckloads of money into the sector:

Lack of funds and investment is one of the major reasons why the healthcare is lagging behind.All thanks to the minimal government spending into the sector. India spends the least on health compared to the other BRICS nations.

As the public sector has failed to increase investment, the private players have stepped and have brought along with them truckloads of money and funds. But, with an eye on profits. More privatisation means more investments and less burden on the state to spend that money on healthcare.

Big private players like Tatas, Max India, Fortis can generate more funds by the way of financial aids from banks, top industrialists, pharmaceuticals and so on. As per a PWC report, private health spending in India was more than double the government’s expenditure in 2014. So if the government spent 1.4% of the GDP, the private sector spent 3.3%.

2. Better facilities, management and infrastructure:

Huge funds bring with them better and advanced medical equipments, trained and qualified professionals and individualized care. Most of the government healthcare sectors do not have a clean and hygienic environment, lack basic infrastructure and human resource. That’s is why, privatising the sector is vital. Private hospitals serve a better management mainly to maintain an image and (earn huge profits obviously) because if something goes wrong, their income will be affected. Better quality of service and availability of latest technology is the major reason why despite they charge 4 times more than the government hospitals, people prefer to get treated in private hospitals.

3. Quick access to treatment:

In India, more and more people from the rural and the urban areas are opting for private hospitals despite having to spend more. It’s because of the less waiting hours and prompt service offered by private hospitals. According to a recent report, 44% people complained about having to wait for long hours at a public hospital. Also, it was found that many public hospitals didn’t have doctors to meet with the patients. 52% people opted for private hospitals because they could choose the doctor they wanted. Moreover, the number of private practitioners is available for people to visit and get treated. This drawback on the part of the government hospitals reduced the quality of patient care that left people with the choice of opting for private healthcare.

Cons:

1. Privatisation comes with a heavy price tag:

Private players have made a huge investment in the healthcare industry. They have not done so with a sole intention to serve the society but to make profits from these investments. And profits will only be made by increasing the doctor fees and charges for tests.

Private hospitals charge their own commission from the patients and treat them like money generators. For example, people who go for eye treatments to private hospitals end up paying 6 times more than they would pay at government hospitals. Moreover, even child birth costs eight and a half times more at private hospitals than government ones. Also the medical equipment used at private hospitals, being imported, involves high import duty and maintenance which costs in lakhs thereby making medical treatment even expensive.

2. Pressure to make profits can get ugly:

The private health sector is more like a business than service, therefore, the private hospitals, centers and practitioners are always on a lookout to make more money. Sometimes the private hospitals become so blinded by profits, that the entire purpose of running a healthcare takes a back seat. For instance, it was found out that 4 private hospitals in Rajasthan removed the uterus of 226 women and earned Rs.14,000 from each patient. To add to their misery, many of the women had not been properly operated because of which many experienced severe stomach pain. A number of local NGO’s filed a case against these hospitals asking to make private practice transparent.

3. Unhealthy competition among the key players:

With people opting for private healthcare, the key players are running the race to earn more profit and gain consumer confidence. Many private hospitals and diagnostic centres keep asking their patients to take unnecessary medical tests to popularise these services and market it to people. Medical companies promote their medicines and medical kits through advertisements over and over again to attract the audience and show why their product is better than its substitute. This puts patients into confusion and they end up buying into the existing unhealthy competition.

4. Lack of regulation and transparency:

One of the key advantage for the private health care sector is that they don’t have to be transparent about their doings. There is also lack of government regulations to regulate their actions and pricing mechanism. The Central Information Commission has called for regulating Private hospitals with the RTI Act and have also appealed that the patients be given medical records everyday to maintain transparency.

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