As India witnesses a rapid increase in cost of medical treatment, a Bill to provide for the establishment of a National Commission for Controlling Medical Inflation, which will regulate and standardise the rising costs of medicines, medical diagnostic tests and pathological examinations, was introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
CPI Rajya Sabha MP P. Santhosh Kumar names the Bill as ‘The National Commission for Controlling Medical Inflation Act, 2022’. It seeks to establish a commission which will consist of a Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and five members to be appointed by the President of India.
The commission will monitor, regulate and control the rising costs of medicines, medical diagnostic tests and pathological examinations. It shall have the powers of a civil court to try matters regarding examination of witnesses and documents, receiving evidence on affidavits and requisitioning any public record or copy from any court or office.
The Government shall consult the National Commission on all policies related to the control and monitoring of medical inflation.
The statement for objects and reason for the Bill flags the problem that every year, healthcare expenses are increasing at a very fast rate and even the middle class cannot afford hospitalisation.
“There is an accelerating rate of increase in the price of medicines, pathological diagnosis, hospitalisation and everything related to healthcare,” the Bill says.
“Medical inflation is a reality. We do not have any standard rates for tests and medicines. At one hospital, a test can cost Rs. 50 and at another it can cost Rs. 100,” Mr. Kumar said.
The Economic Survey of 2017-18 states that, there are wide differences in the average prices of medical diagnostic tests across cities.
In the year 2021, India witnessed the highest medical inflation rate of 14 percent among Asian countries. As per the official data of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the cost of medical treatment in India went up by 7.21 per cent in April 2022.
As per a record, 55 million Indians were pushed into poverty in 2017, because of the high out-of-pocket (OOP) health expenses. This is more than the population of three countries- South Korea, Spain and Kenya.
As of now, the OOP expenditure of an individual for healthcare is 63 percent in India. This means that whether an individual has private health insurance or visits a government healthcare facility for treatment, they will have to spend a significant amount from their pocket for getting treated in the country, the Bill said.