Government moots health as a fundamental right


The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has suggested making health a fundamental right, similar to education. This key proposal in the draft National Health Policy, 2015, suggests making denial of health an offence.
The draft National Health Policy, 2015 has proposed a target of raising public health expenditure to 2.5 % from the present 1.2% of GDP. It also notes that 40% of this would need to come from central expenditure. 
As per the draft document, government plans to rely mostly on general taxation for financing health care expenditure. "With the projection of a promising economic growth, the fiscal capacity to provide this level of financing should become available," it said. 
The government is also keen to explore the creation of a health cess on the lines of education cess for raising money needed to fund the expenditure it would entail. "Other than general taxation, this cess could mobilize contributions from specific commodity taxes such as the taxes on tobacco, and alcohol, from specific industries and innovative forms of resource mobilization," the draft policy states. 
While there is an intent to increase spend on health care, the draft policy also stresses on the role of private sector. While the public sector is to focus on preventive and secondary care services, the document recommends contracting out services like ambulatory care, imaging and diagnostics, tertiary care down to non-medical services such as catering and laundry to the private sector. 
The draft document highlights the urgent need to improve the performance of health systems, with focus on improving maternal mortality rate, controlling infectious diseases, tackling the growing burden of non-communicable diseases and bringing down medical expenses among other things. 
The policy statement also assures universal access to free drugs and diagnostics in government-run hospitals. However, it proposes to pose public health system as pre-paid services instead of social service.
International covenants
The proposal for a National Health Rights Act comes after a debate on whether India should pass a Bill to make health a fundamental right as was done for education. “Many industrialised nations have laws that do so. Many of the developing nations that have made significant progress towards universal health coverage, such as Brazil and Thailand, have done so, and … such a law is a major contributory factor. A number of international covenants to which we [India] are joint signatories give us such a mandate — and this could be used to make a national law. Courts have also rulings that, in effect, see health care as a fundamental right — and a constitutional obligation flowing out of the right to life,” the draft policy says.
Pointing out that there has been a 10-year discussion on this issue “without a resolution,” the draft questions whether India has reached the level of development in economic and health systems to make this a justiciable right — implying that its denial is an offence.

Friday, 02nd Jan 2015, 07:49:31 AM

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