Why Indian Healthcare System Needs a Facelift?

It shouldn’t surprise you to know that United States and India differ widely when it comes to healthcare.  Even though, Indian industry is nearly 200 years old now (with its earliest origin going back until 1818- with the institution of Oriental Life Insurance Company), but there still some way to go before it is as powerful and as invasive as its western counterparts, specifically in the United States of America.

Despite the online availability of several health insurance aggregators like PolicyBazaar, in today’s scenario, India is still lagging behind in several health indicators such as malnutrition and mortality rates.

If we really want to focus on the Indian health insurance industry and facilitate improvement in this sector, its high-time we compare the healthcare and insurance industries and how they work in both of the countries.  For instance, children under 5 years of age are more likely to die in India than in the United States. Likewise, the average life expectancy in India of women and men is 66 years and 63 years, respectively; while in the US, it’s 81 years for women and 76 years for men. Again, health insurance industry in the United States is much more customer-focussed than India (in India- things are more insurer-oriented!).

Mandatory/Optional Cover:

In the USA, healthcare is an almost mandatory for every resident. Each and every individual in the USA needs to be covered under an insurance scheme- with even employers obligated to cover their employees under health insurance schemes. Not only this, but they are also supposed to continue coverage for a determinate time even after discontinuation of employment for an employee. The USA government provides coverage to only those people who are either unemployed or aren’t in a position to purchase medical insurance due to different reasons.

Difference in Nature of Healthcare Structure:

Unlike the USA, in India, healthcare industry is managed by both – the government as well as private bodies. Almost seventy-five percent of the hospitals and medical institutions are run by the respective state governments. In India, buying health insurance is an individual’s choice- whether s/he wants to buy health insurance for her/him or her/his family. Even for the organizations, they are not compelled to buy insurance for their employees.

Huge Difference in the Total Expenditure:

As per the data submitted by World Health Organization (based on the countries performing best to worst in the healthcare industry), the USA stands with a ranking of 37, while India is at 112. Although, the United States still has many avenues to improve and fine tune, India is still a further way behind.

You’ll be surprised to know that in India, the total expenditure on healthcare is as low as only 4% of GDP which is significantly lesser when compared to even other South-Asian countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In the USA, the average expenditure on healthcare is 17% of its GDP, which is far above the world standards.

Difference in Health Cover Expenditure:

In Indian healthcare industry, health insurance coverage is basically limited to hospitalization. Although, the patient is supposed to be paid for 30 days pre or 60 days post hospitalization (depending upon the coverage s/he has purchased), s/he still has to pay a significant portion of the bill from her/his own pocket. On the other hand, in the USA, health coverage includes everything – be it a visit to the family physician for mild fever cases or taking care of hospital charges in the cases of major operations or treatment of serious diseases/illnesses.

Health Coverage Premium Charges:

There is a huge difference between the health coverage premium rates in both of the countries. Due to health insurance being a mandatory affair in the USA, higher living standards and the fact that almost every person is covered, the premium charges are much higher in the USA. Whereas in India, since health coverage is not a mandate practice, comparatively lower percentages of people opt for insurance. As a result of the numerous facilitators health insurance providers and health insurance aggregators, the premium rates are much lower in India. For instance, a 28-year old individual in India will need to pay approximately 500 per month to get a health insurance of around Rs. 5 lakh. The numbers might vary with different insurance providers, but you can still manage to get a decent coverage of Rs 10,000 a year.

Wrapping it up!

India is the abode to almost 17.5% of world’s population and still carries the burden of being accountable for 20% of the global diseases, 21% of child deaths (below 5 years age) across the globe and 27% of all infant deaths. The need of the hour is that the government should start looking for remedies to the Indian healthcare industry’s structural as well infrastructural problems.

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