Agitated over the Planning Commission’s reported move to heavily involve the corporate sector in rolling out the universal healthcare (UHC), health activists have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention in ensuring that the Plan panel should not move towards ‘corporatisation’ of healthcare which would mean that healthcare would not be universalised and, instead, remain substantially privatized and completely dominated by corporate health interests.
Through their budgetary allocations the Finance Ministry and Planning Commission should allay fears that the Union Government will sanction additional funds for the health sector only when insurance and/or public-private partnership models are given a green signal. “Promotion of such corporate schemes instead of strengthening, improving and expanding the public health system as the main strategy is extremely damaging for health system development, and raises serious questions about favouring certain corporate interests above national interests,” health activists have said in their letter to Dr Singh.
This follows a recent process of ‘stakeholder-meetings’ by the Planning Commission to ‘discuss the operational plan for UHC’ roll out, which the activists claim, was done with selective, heavy presence of corporate representatives. “It is increasingly clear that the government’s main strategy is to extend healthcare coverage by financing various schemes to be managed by the corporate health sector. This is exactly opposite of what the Union Health Ministry and a wide range of civil society organizations have been recommending, and also runs counter to the bulk of recommendations of Planning commission’s own High Level Expert Group report,” said the letter written jointly by Abhay Shukla, Anant Phadke, Amit Sengupta, Sulakshana Nandi, Narendra Gupta, and N. Sarojini on behalf of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan.
Demanding immediate discontinuation of the “biased stakeholders meetings” to ‘discuss the operational plan for UHC’ with unjustified, selective presence of corporate representatives, the letter has said that all such undemocratic attempts to shape health policy in favour of corporate, vested interests must be avoided in future.
“To our knowledge no civil society organisations were invited to this meeting. We also understand that this is the beginning of a continuous process and similar meetings are to be scheduled every 6 weeks. In this move JSA sees a dangerous push in the direction of using public funds mainly for the PPP model, to finance care which would be provided by corporate sector led networks,” the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan has said.
It is also a matter of concern for JSA that health sector civil society organisations and even State health departments have been kept aside during the ‘stakeholder-discussions’ mentioned above. Initiatives of this kind lack transparency and would unnecessarily precipitate a crisis of confidence about governance, the letter added.