Healthcare costs drove 55 million Indians below poverty line in the last two decades

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  • 38 million Indians fell below the poverty line simply due to the cost of medicines.
  • The study was based on data analysed over the past two decades, between 1993-2012.
Cost of healthcare is driving people in India towards poverty. According to a study conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India, over 54 million Indian residents fell below the poverty line in a single year because they were funding their own healthcare, including hospital and treatment costs. On the other hand, about 38 million of these fell below the poverty line simply because they were spending on medicines.

The study analysed data from nationwide consumer expenditure surveys which were conducted over the past two decades, from 1993-94 up to 2011-12, and the ‘Social Consumption: Health’ survey done by the National Sample Survey Organisation in 2014. The study also takes into consideration the measures that were taken by the Indian government to reduce the burden of medical expenses for Indian households.

The study also noted that there was very little incentive for patients to seek public healthcare, which is likely due to inefficiency and poor standards of government-run public health facilities. Outpatients apparently sought healthcare in the more expensive private institutions often.

What has the government done so far

Health insurances basically cover almost all medical needs of a person, including hospitalisation charges during illness or an accident. The government has launched several health insurance schemes, like the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana, over the past years but despite that, the countries population continues to incur significant medical expenditures.

The government has also set up over 3000 Jan Aushadhi stores, government owned medicine stores that provide cheap but good quality medicine for citizens. Though the goal of the policy was met, these stores frequently face stock outages and quality issues, according to a report.
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