Describing as a challenge the rising cost of health care, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has advocated the need to work towards hassle-free and cashless outpatient care in public hospitals.

Speaking at the Polio Summit 2012 here on Saturday, Dr. Singh said the impact of high medical costs placed an unconscionable burden on the poor. “We are, therefore, focusing our attention on social security of the poor with regard to their health care,” he said.

Key priorities

“Thanks to our sustained high growth rates in recent years, we have been able to provide the higher levels of public investment needed in the health sector. Public expenditure on health has increased from less than 1 per cent of our GDP in 2006-07 to an estimated 1.4 per cent of GDP by the end of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. But we will need to work harder and do more if we have to reach our goal of increasing public expenditure on health to at least 2.5 per cent of the GDP. Education and health will be the key priorities of the Twelfth Five-Year Plan.”

Universal access

On a broader level, the Prime Minister said: “We need to accelerate our efforts to achieve our goal of providing universal access to health care at affordable cost for all our citizens. We are moving towards the creation of public health cadres to work for the prevention and control of diseases,” he said.

Cashless outpatient care and a specialised cadre for public health are major recommendations of the high-level expert group of the Planning Commission on universal health care which had also proposed cashless health package for all.

Joint effort

Strongly supporting the concept of universal health care, Dr. Singh said the vision would unite all in a concerted effort to promote everyone's health.

“Just as the polio campaign saw the State and Central governments working closely with a common purpose, I am confident that the vision of universal health care will unite all of us in a concerted effort to preserve, protect and promote the health of all our people,” he said.

Pointing out that two-thirds of private health care expenditure was on outpatient and diagnostic care and on purchase of medicines, Dr. Singh said insurance schemes generally tend to focus on in-patient cases. He reiterated the government's commitment to provide health care to all.

“More money for health must also result in more health for money. Beyond investments, we, therefore, need greater capacities for decentralised health care planning and management. This will require greater focus on human resource development as well as on technological innovation and information systems that can support such decentralisation,” he said.

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