NHPS: Expert for strong regulation, cap on medical input prices
New Delhi: In order to make the ambitious National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) successful, the government should introduce strong regulation and put a cap on prices of medical inputs including medicines and health implants, an expert has said.
Touted as the world's largest government-funded health care programme, the (NHPS) aims at benefiting 10 crore families by providing coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary health care.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Dr G S Grewal, Member Core Committee of Alliance of Doctors on Ethical Healthcare (ADEH), said that "revolutionary measures need revolutionary reforms".
Ideally, after the scheme was announced, one would have felt satisfied with being secured in case of a medical emergency but given the way the health and pharmaceutical sector is operating currently in the country, Rs 5 lakhs will appear to be "just peanuts", Grewal said.
"We have a recent example of a corporate hospital charging Rs 17 lakhs for the treatment of dengue where even then the patient died," he said.
"This requires strong regulation of the prices of the inputs. The government has put a cap on the prices of stents. It also needs to put a similar cap on other health implants. Besides, there has to be a cap on the prices of medicines."
He pointed out that the medicines of same salts with different brand names sell at varied priced and the gullible patient is made to believe the expensive ones will be more effective and thus gets cheated of his precious money.
"If the prices of the input costs are not regulated, Rs five lakhs will not provide any relief to the patients. There needs to be a strict and serious regulation of the prices of the medicines as also the charges on various medical investigations and diagnostic tests.
"...all the inputs required in a healthcare from a needle to I/V sets, etc need to be capped as well. It is quite possible and very much doable particularly when we have a prime minister like Narendra Modi who cares," he said.
He also said there was a need to put an end to commission business in the medical profession.
He said that along with curbing unethical practices in the medical profession, the medical teaching needs a thorough revamp.
Medical education has declined over the years and "money, not merit" drives especially private medical education, he said. "This has had a very harmful impact on the profession as we are not producing the best doctors we could produce otherwise."
"For this, we need to strengthen the government institutions like the AIIMS, New Delhi and the PGI Chandigarh. Who should be producing good teachers for these institutions," he said.
"If there is any sincerity in the government to make healthcare affordable, it should realize that money saved on capping the drugs and other medical inputs will save government billions of rupees which it pays as a reimbursement as well as free treatment to all government employees.
"This is comparable to saving electricity by shifting to LED technology," he added. He also suggested that regulating bodies like Medical Council of India and state Medical Councils should not have any member or office-bearers with conflict of Interest.