Budget 2019: Why India's health budget needs more infusion

Doctors take out a protest rally in Kolkatta, India, Friday, June 14, 2019. The doctors who were on strike since June 11 were protesting after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured by family members of a patient. During the rally they demanded adequate security and protection for them in the hospitals.Photo/Bikas Das)
India’s spending on the public health care is estimated only at about 1.3 of its GDP. This is a thoroughly discouraging figure when compared to what the other BRICS countries are spending. Notably, Brazil, Russia and South Africa spend about 8.3 percent, 7.1 percent and 8.8 percent towards their public healthcare sector respectively. Here are some strong reasons why India must considerably increase its spending on the public health.

The government hospitals in India need to be equipped better

The government hospitals in the state of Bihar were not fully equipped or prepared to combat the outbreak of chamki fever. The shortage of medicines led to the deaths of a large number of children raising panic among the crowds. Sometime back, a considerable number of children died in the hospitals of Gorakhpur in UP since oxygen cylinders went out of stock. Such instances reflect on the poor healthcare infrastructure in the country. Hence only a significant rise in the health care budget will address the growing needs of the public health in India.

Healthcare crisis in India

Some highlights of the healthcare crisis in India are the inadequacy of the maternal and mortality indicators in the country, the rising burden of communicable as well as non-communicable diseases, high percentage of the out-of-pocket expenses during medical care, the highly commercialized private health sector and the poor status of the public health sector are the important concerns leading tot eh healthcare crisis in India. To address all of these issues adequately, the spending on the public health needs to be increased in the budget.

Issues faced by the public health facilities

The main issues that the public health facilities confront are poor infrastructure and lack or human resources. The statistics by the Rural Health says about 13% of the posts sanctioned for the female health workers and 37% of the posts sanctioned for the male health workers are not filled up. Only 11% of the sub-centers and 13% of the PHCs are meeting the standards of Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS). Hence allotment of more resources for the public health and measures to empower the delivery of health services are the need of the hour.

Out-of-pocket expenses are more

National Health Accounts has found out that the out of pocket expenses during health expenses in India amount to 63% of the total health spend. In the private sector, the Out of pocket spending is about 90%. Healthcare spending adds up around 7 percent to the poverty figures in the country. With the rising average costs of medical expenses, the burden of healthcare expenses on the people is fast rising.

Some causes for the health problems


Poor nutrition is one of the major causes for the rising health problems in India. Hence the government’s allotment for nutritional intervention must also needs to be enhanced. The new cost sharing norms between the central and state governments have brought down the spending on the schemes like ICDS and school meals. The budget must also show a substantial rise in the allocation towards ICDS.
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