Healthcare in India cheap but not for most Indians
NEW DELHI: India’s healthcare costs may be among the lowest in the world but they are still out of the reach of a vast majority of its citizens.
For instance, one cycle of chemotherapy and radiation therapy at AIIMS Cancer Centre costs just ` 750. But 40% of those being treated there can’t afford it and request the bill be waived.
“Advances in medical technology and new medicines are a boon, but to work in India they have to be value for money. Most people can’t even afford conventional treatments at subsidised prices in public hospitals,” says Dr MC Misra, director, AIIMS.
Low on cost, high on quality of care and with a wide range of treatments available — the Indian healthcare system draws over 1.3 million patients from abroad each year. The sector is expected to generate $3 billion by 2013-end.
In Harvard Business Review’s November issue, a study by authors Vijay Govindarajan and Ravi Ramamurti gave private hospitals in India a thumbs-up for “delivering world-class health care, affordably”. Yet, 99% of India’s population cannot afford these services, shows World Bank data
Each year, 39 million people are pushed into poverty by out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, with households on average devoting 5.8% of their expenditures to medical care, the data reveals.
Manali Shah (name changed on request), a 33-year-old software engineer working in the private sector, lost her savings of eight years in a day when her father, 65, underwent a liver transplant in a private hospital. “Not only did my savings go, I also had to borrow money from the family to foot the bill. The procedure and hospitalisation cost almost R30 lakh, and we have to continue spending R10,000 each month for medicines, follow-up consultations and diagnostics,” she says
Each round of chemotherapy and radiation costs her almost R1 lakh, but she didn’t consider AIIMS because the radiotherapy machine there is booked for the next seven months.
“I worry what will happen should the rest of my family — mother, my younger sister or me — need healthcare. We need a monthly income of a few lakh to meet health expenses,” she says.