The NDA government is “committed to UHC”, Health Minister J P Nadda asserted at an event on Monday, the eve of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day. However, only 27 per cent Indians or approximately 35 crore people have health cover, according to data from the National Health Profile (NHP) released in April.
Thus, of India’s 135 crore people, 100 crore have no cover against catastrophic health expenses.
“We are committed to advancing the agenda of Universal Health Coverage in the country,” Nadda said. He was speaking at an event where he launched a mobile application to help health workers in peripheral areas through complicated deliveries, a scheme for quality certification of labour rooms and guidelines for critical obstetric care.
NHP data, which is compiled by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) that reports to the Union Health Ministry and, therefore, uses government figures to compile all its reports, also says that between 2009-10 and 2014-15, public expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP has remained constant at 0.98 per cent. Interestingly, a scheme that would provide some health cover to 10 crore families requiring an annual government commitment of Rs 6,000 crore, which was to be the precursor to a full-blown nationwide health protection scheme, has been with the Union cabinet for more than a year now.
The 2017 NHP report on the CBHI website says: “Around 35 crore individuals were covered under any insurance in 2015-16. This amounts to 27% of the total population of India. 77% of them were covered by public insurance companies. Overall 80% of all persons covered with insurance fall under government sponsored schemes… Compared to other countries that have either Universal Health Coverage or moving towards it, India’s per capita public spending on health is low.”
In 2014-15, average per capita public health expenditure ranged from Rs 940-2,532, the spending being the highest in the northeastern states and lowest in what are known as the Empowered Action Group states of Bihar, Jharkhand, MP, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Rajasthan, UP and Uttarakhand.