Health expert proposes a shift from universal healthcare to universal health insurance

In a bold move, Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairman and Executive Director of Narayana Health, has proposed a shift from universal healthcare to universal health insurance to ensure the poor get access to modern health facilities. 

"If you watch closely, it is clear that free universal healthcare to every citizen through taxpayer’s money happened successfully only in very few countries with a small population and high tax-to-GDP ratio," he says. 

India requires 65 million surgeries a year, but only 25 million are performed. These are not complex procedures, but essential ones such as cesarean sections for obstructed delivery, appendectomies, and surgeries for compound fractures.

"We need to come up with affordable health insurance with a premium of 10,000 rupees per year which will cover primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare. Rs. 10,000/- annual health insurance by the 300 million strong middle class can transform India’s healthcare."

Dr. Shetty suggested the implementation of health savings accounts, a tax-free scheme for healthcare expenses. Such an initiative would provide a flexible route for the middle-class population to pay insurance premiums.

He emphasized the need for the three stakeholders in the healthcare industry – hospitals, insurance companies, and patients – to foster mutual trust.

If done right, India can become a global leader in healthcare by dissociating healthcare from affluence. “I believe that India can become the first country to prove to the world that the wealth of the nation has nothing to do with the quality of healthcare. It will not take a lifetime but only 5 years if implemented," says Dr Devi Prasad Shetty. 

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