Increasing Healthcare Consumption in India with equity

Along with the economic progress of India, healthcare consumption of the population of the country is also increasing at a reasonably faster pace. According to McKinsey India Report, 2007, the share of average household healthcare consumption has increased from 4 per cent in 1995 to 7 per cent in 2005 and is expected to increase to 13 per cent in 2025 with a CAGR of 9 per cent, as follows:

Share of Average Household Consumption (AHC) (%)

Household Consumption 1995 2005 E 2015 F 2025 F CAGR %
1. Healthcare

4

7

9

13

9

2. Education & Recreation

3

5

6

9

9

3. Communication

1

2

3

6

12
4. Transportation

11

17

19

20

7

5. Personal Products and Services

4

8

9

11

8

6. Household Products

2

3

3

3

5
7. Housing & Utilities

14

12

12

10

5
8. Apparel

5

6

5

5

5
9. Food, Beverages & Tobacco

56

42

34

25

3

(Source; McKinsey India Report 2007)

From this study, it appears that among all common household consumption, the CAGR of ‘healthcare’ at 9 percent will be the second highest along with ‘education’ and ‘communication’ topping the growth chart at 12 percent.

As per this McKinsey study, in 2025, in terms of AHC for ‘healthcare’ (13 percent) is expected to rank third after ‘Food & Beverages’ (25 percent) and ‘transportation’ (20 percent).

Thus, over a period of time AHC for ‘healthcare’ shows a very significant growth potential in India. Hence, this important area needs much greater attention of the policymakers to help translate the potential into actual performance with requisite policy and fiscal support/incentives.

Sectoral break-up of the Healthcare Industry:

According to IDFC Securities 2010, the sectoral break-up of the US$ 40 billion healthcare industry is as follows:

Industry

%

Hospitals

50

Pharma

25

Diagnostics

10

Insurance & Medical Equipment

15

(Source: IDFC Securities Hospital Sector, November 2010)

Therefore, as per this above report, the top two sectors of the healthcare industry are hospitals with 50 percent share and pharmaceuticals at 25 percent.

Public sector drives the healthcare expenditure in the developed countries:

Almost all OECD countries now provide universal or near-universal health coverage for a core set of health services, which are primarily funded by the public sector.

The report titled, ‘Health at a Glance 2011’ indicates that adjusted for purchasing power parity United States of America (USA) at US$ 7290 per capita expenditure on health in 2007, which is almost two and a half times more than the OECD average of US$ 2984, towers above other OECD countries. However, the same for Turkey and Mexico was less than one-third of the OECD average.

India and South East Asia are different:

Unlike OECD countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), in South East Asia, except Thailand and Indonesia, healthcare is primarily driven by private expenditure, as seen in the following table:

Public and Private Expenditure on Health as % of Total

Country

Public %

Private %

Laos

17.60

82.40

Cambodia

23.80

76.20

India

32.40

67.60

Philippines

34.70

65.30

Vietnam

38.50

61.50

Malaysia

44.10

55.90

Indonesia

54.40

45.60

Thailand

74.30

25.70

Source: World Health Statistics 2011, World Health Organization (WHO)

In India, the critical healthcare industry is heavily dependent on private sector investments, where the total public expenditure on health is just around one third of the country’s total expenditure for the same, though in the 12th Five Year Plan period the the government is likely to increase its health expenditure as a percentage to GDP to 2.5 percent.

Healthcare – a more sensitive sector in India:

According to an article titled, ‘Financing health care for all: challenges and opportunities’, published in ‘The Lancet’ dated February 19, 2011 ‘Out of Pocket’ expenditure on health in India (78 per cent) is one of the highest as compared to its neighboring, except Pakistan (82.5 percent). The details are as follows:

Country ‘Out of Pocket’ expenses (%)
1. Pakistan

82.5

2. India

78

3. China

61

4. Sri Lanka

53

5. Thailand

31

6. Bhutan

29

7. Maldives

14

Such a high out of pocket expenditure for health in India, makes ‘affordability’ of healthcare products and services so sensitive to all concerned.

Just Hospital oriented health insurance plans are not adequate enough:

The above article from ‘The Lancet ‘also indicates that 74 per cent of the total healthcare expenditure goes for only outpatient or in-clinic treatment of the patients. Only 26 per cent of healthcare expenditure goes for inpatient treatment in the hospitals.

Thus coverage of only expenditure towards hospitalization by the health insurance companies will not be able to provide significant benefits to most of the citizens of India.

Further, the article says that from 1986 to 2004, there has been three times increase in the average real expenditure per hospital admission, both in the government and private hospitals.

Threefold increase in the drug prices from 1993-94 to 2006-07 was mentioned as the key factor for cost escalation in the medical care in India.

Private healthcare sector needs more fiscal incentives and lesser cost of capital:

As indicated above, private healthcare players will increasingly play a very significant role to increase healthcare consumption with equitable span across the population of India. To encourage them to spread their wings in the semi-urban and rural areas of the country effectively, lucrative fiscal/ financial incentives along with the availability of low cost capital, are absolutely necessary.

It is worth mentioning that the growth of rural middle class population is now faster than ever before and much more than their urban counterpart.

Exploitation of the patients must stop:

Unfortunate and deplorable incidences of exploitation of patients, mainly by the private players, are critical impediments to foster growth in quality healthcare consumption within the country.

In this context, ‘The Lancet’, January 11, 2011 highlighted as follows:

“Reported problems (which patients face while getting treated at a private doctor’s clinic) include unnecessary tests and procedures, rewards for referrals, lack of quality standards and irrational use of injection and drugs. Since no national regulations exist for provider standards and treatment protocols for healthcare, over diagnosis, over treatment and maltreatment are common.” Prevailing situation like this calls for urgent national regulations for provider-standards and treatment-protocols, at least for the common diseases in India and more importantly their stricter implementation across the country.

UHC will significantly improve healthcare consumption:

In October 2010, the Planning Commission of India constituted a ‘High Level Expert Group (HLEG)’ on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) under the chairmanship of the well-known medical professional Prof. K. Srinath Reddy. The HLEG was mandated to develop a framework for providing easily accessible and affordable health care to all Indians.

UHC will guarantee access to essential free health services to all. However, because of the uniqueness of India, HLEG proposed a hybrid system that draws on the lessons learnt not only from within India, but also from other developed and developing countries of the world.

UHC is expected to ensure guaranteed access to essential health services to every Indian, including cashless in-patient and out-patient treatment for primary, secondary and tertiary care. All these services will be available to the patients absolutely free of any cost.

Under UHC all citizens of India will be free to choose between Public sector facilities and ‘contracted-in’ private providers for healthcare services.

It is envisaged that the people would be free to supplement the free of cost healthcare services offered under UHC by opting to pay ‘out of pocket’ or going for private health insurance schemes, as per their individual requirements.

Conclusion:

India has already been globally recognized as one of the fastest growing healthcare markets of the world. All components in the healthcare space of the country including hospital and allied services are registering sustainable decent growth, riding mainly on private investments and now fueled by various government projects, such as:

  1. National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)
  2. National Urban Health Mission
  3. Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY)
  4. Universal Health Coverage (UHC)
  5. Free Medicine from the Government hospitals
  6. Centralized procurement by both the Central and the State Governments

Supported by newer, both public and private initiatives, like:

  • Increase in public spending on healthcare from 1.0 per cent to 2.5 per cent of GDP in the 12th Five Year Plan period
  • Increasing participation of the private players in smaller towns and hinterland of the country
  • Wider coverage of health insurance
  • Micro-financing
  • Greater spread of telemedicine
  • More number of mobile diagnosis and surgical centers

All these interesting developments adequately fueled by rising income levels and improving access to healthcare though albeit slowly at present, equitable consumption of healthcare in India, I reckon, is expected to improve by manifold in the years ahead, despite shrill voices of  naysayers of vested interests, orchestrated many a times from beyond the shores of India.

By: Tapan J Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.