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Holistic care is an integral aspect of the fight against cancer care which lays equal emphasis on the physical and psycho-social needs of patients.
Dr. B. S. Ajaikumar

The compelling case for universal healthcare

  • Date: 2024-04-24 10:30:59
  • Author: Dr. BS Ajaikumar
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The compelling case for universal healthcare

Dr B. S. Ajaikumar, Executive Chairman, HealthCare Global Enterprises (HCG) highlights that healthcare disparities can never be eliminated through price control; universal healthcare can alone serve the larger cause of quality treatments and lasting patient outcomes

The prevalent negative perception centered around the cost of pri- vate healthcare is hardly a surprise, but it is truly shock- ing to note that the Hon. Supreme Court has urged the government to enforce parity by determining fees charge- able to patients in response to a Public Interest Litigation, thereby implying that private hospitals should charge the same rates as their public. counterparts. This directive has yet again highlighted the widespread apathy and igno- rance that has adversely af fected the healthcare sector
performance and prospects over the year.
 People who can afford the standard cost of treatments wilfully approach private hospitals. Customer is the king even as a patient, and he or she decides which hospi- tal to approach for treatment based on their priorities and preferences. Private health- care is value-added, but it is not a monopoly. Sadly, the regulatory and judiciary bod- ies are treating it just like a monopoly and making life more difficult for private play- ers than it already is.
Needless to say, the high quality of healthcare that pri- vate hospitals extend to pa- tients comes at a cost. Hefty salaries of doctors and sup- port staff, high-end technol-
ogy, advanced equipment, and is managed by the private hos pitals without any govern- More importantly, even after standards of quality, India is
latest therapies, every aspect
ment support whatsoever.
maintaining the highest
one of the world's most
cost-effective providers of
22 EXPRESS HEALTHCARE
April 2024
Government hospitals are funded by taxpayers' money and they are supposed to provide subsidised, quality healthcare services to people from the lower socio- economic strata
private healthcare.
The Hon. Supreme Court should have been briefed bet ter on the healthcare dynamic which could have eliminated the need for this arbitrary di- rective. If the whole approach is only about taking extreme steps, it is better to nation- alise healthcare and be done with it once and for all. Pri- vate healthcare players will then get out of the system and switch to other sectors. The Supreme Court directive treads in a wrong direction which will decimate an effi- cient system providing world class healthcare at cost-effec- tive rates. If parity is to be achieved by such means, then why single out healthcare? Why not ask the hospitality industry to do the same? Why not mandate advocates to maintain parity in the fees they charge their clientele? For that matter, why not in clude every sector in the purview?
Already, we have seen the ill-effects of the interference of drug controller on drug prices. Speaking of my sphere of on- cology, following the drastically slashed prices of prominent cancer drugs like Cisplatin and Taxol, manufacturers are no longer keen on their production and we are facing a tough time acquiring these drugs for our patients. There are key lessons to be learnt from these flawed interventions. Price control and fixation of private health care services is totally unae ceptable.
The onus is now on the leading private healthcare
providers of the country to ed-
ucate the judiciary and the
common public about what
it
takes to provide quality healthcare. The healthcare sector in India clearly needs at prudent system that shuns the cost-based approach in favour of a value-based ap- proach and ensures that
treatment outcomes are the same irrespective of the pa- tient's socio-economic status.
In the current model, the poor often contend with what they perceive as low-quality treatment in the guise of free or subsidised treatment. Many government schemes. are in operation today, and some of them are doing a good job at achieving parity. Yet, if patients from low-income groups approach private play- ers for value-added treat- ment, the price differential will always be a foregone con- clusion. The private hospitals shouldn't be forced to lower the price of quality treat- ments for a choice that pa- tients have made.
Hence, we need a value- based treatment model fo- cused on outcomes for pa- tients rather than cost containment to bring quality healthcare to the citizens' doorstep, accompanied by sustainable health insurance schemes. Healthcare dispari- ties can never be eliminated through price control; near- cashless healthcare is the only answer to serve the larger cause of quality treatments and lasting patient outcomes. Insurance companies have a big role to play in making healthcare more accessible, affordable, and affable for the poorer sections of the society. The government needs to adopt a robust universal healthcare model if it really wants to remove the dispari- ties in healthcare charges. It is hardly a surprise that ad- vanced nations like Switzer-
land, Netherlands, United
Kingdom, and Canada are
running evolved versions of
this model, but it is indeed commendable that even devel- oping nations like Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Vietnam have made good progress despite severe con- straints.