Centre moots health as a fundamental right

The policy also makes denial of health care an offence

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:36 pm IST

Published - January 01, 2015 02:47 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has suggested making health a fundamental right, similar to education. This key proposal in the draft National Health Policy, 2015, suggests making denial of health an offence.

> >Draft National Health Policy, 2015 (32 kb) .

Thirteen years after the previous health policy, the draft, now in the public domain for stakeholders’ suggestions and comments, has addressed the issues of universal health coverage, reducing maternal mortality and infant mortality, access to free drugs and diagnostics, and changes in laws to make them more relevant.

International covenants The proposal for a National Health Rights Act comes after a debate on whether India should pass a Bill to make health a fundamental right as was done for education. “Many industrialised nations have laws that do so. Many of the developing nations that have made significant progress towards universal health coverage, such as Brazil and Thailand, have done so, and … such a law is a major contributory factor. A number of international covenants to which we [India] are joint signatories give us such a mandate — and this could be used to make a national law. Courts have also rulings that, in effect, see health care as a fundamental right — and a constitutional obligation flowing out of the right to life,” the draft policy says.

Pointing out that there has been a 10-year discussion on this issue “without a resolution,” the draft questions whether India has reached the level of development in economic and health systems to make this a justiciable right — implying that its denial is an offence.

Feedback on the draft can be submitted until February 28.

Govt. cuts health budget target to 2.5% of GDP

The draft National Health Policy 2015 proposes that “the Centre shall enact, after due discussion and on the request of three or more States (using the same legal clause as used for the Clinical Establishments Bill), a National Health Rights Act, which will make ensuring health as a fundamental right, whose denial will be justiciable.

“The States would voluntarily opt to adopt this by a resolution of their Legislative Assembly. The States which have achieved a per capita public health expenditure rate of over Rs. 3,800 per capita (at current prices) should be in a position to deliver on this — and though many States are some distance away, there are States which are approaching or have even reached this target.”

On the issue of increasing health spending, the draft says it accepts and endorses the understanding that a full achievement of the millennium development goals will require an increase in public health expenditure from 4 to 5 per cent of the GDP.

Potentially achievable

“However, given that the NHP 2002 target of 2 per cent was not met, and taking into account the financial capacity of the country to provide this amount and the institutional capacity to utilise the increased funding in an effective manner, this policy proposes a… potentially achievable target of raising public health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of the GDP.

It also notes that 40 per cent of this would need to come from Central expenditures. At current prices, a target of 2.5 per cent of the GDP translates to Rs. 3,800 per capita, representing an almost four-fold increase in five years. Thus, a longer time frame may be appropriate to even reach this modest target,” the policy notes.

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