These measures, in both the countries, intend to ensure access to affordable, high quality health care coverage and services to every citizen of the respective nations. In America, the reform process also intends to bridge the healthcare coverage gap in their Medicare prescription drugs program for the senior citizens.
The pharmaceutical industry response to healthcare reform in the USA:
Responding to this major policy initiative of the government, very responsibly David Brennan, Chief Executive Officer of AstraZeneca and the Chairman of Pharmaceuticals Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) announced recently:
“PhRMA is committed to working with the Administration and Congress to help enact comprehensive health care reform this year. We share a common goal: every American should have access to affordable, high-quality health care coverage and services. As part of that reform, one thing that we have agreed to do is support legislation that will help seniors affected by the coverage gap in the Medicare prescription drug benefit.”
For this purpose Brennan publicly announced the following:
1. America’s pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies have agreed to provide a 50 percent discount to most beneficiaries on brand-name medicines covered by a patient’s Part D plan of Medicare, when purchased in the coverage gap.
2. The entire negotiated price of the Part D covered medicine purchased in the coverage gap would count toward the beneficiary’s out-of-pocket costs, thus lowering their total out-of-pocket spending.
American Pharmaceutical Industry pledges U.S$ 80 billion towards healthcare reform of the nation:
With the above announced commitment, it has been reported that the US Pharmaceutical and Biotech companies have offered to spend U.S$ 80 billion to help the senior citizens of America to be able to afford medicines through a proposed overhaul of the healthcare system of the country.
This is a voluntary pledge by the American pharmaceutical industry to reduce what it charges the federal government over the next 10 years.
What is the Medicare plan of America?
According to the explanation of the program given by Medicare, it is a prescription drug benefit program. Under this program, senior citizens purchase medicines from the pharmacies. The first U.S$ 295 will have to be paid by them. Thereafter, the plan covers 75 percent of the purchases of medicines till the total reaches U.S$ 2,700. Then after paying all costs towards medicines ‘out of pocket’ till it reaches U.S $ 4,350, patients make a small co-payment for each drug until the end of the year.
American citizens’ support on the new healthcare reform of President Barak Obama:
A leading American daily reports that American citizens overwhelmingly support substantial changes to the country’s healthcare system and are strongly behind a government run insurance plan to compete with private insurers.
According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll most Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes, so that every individual could have health insurance. Unlike in India, Americans feel that the government could do a better job of holding down healthcare costs than the private sector.
Current American healthcare: High quality – high cost
85 percent of respondents in this survey said the country’s healthcare system should be completely overhauled and rebuilt. The survey also highlighted that American citizens are far more unsatisfied with the cost of healthcare rather than its quality.
President Obama has been repeatedly emphasizing the need to reduce costs of healthcare and believes that the health care legislation is absolutely vital to American economic recovery. 86 percent of those polled in the survey opined that the rising costs of healthcare pose a serious economic threat.
An interesting recent study from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services:
A recent study conducted by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services reports that as a part of the new healthcare reform initiative in the US, if the health centers are expanded from the current 19 million to 20 million patients, the country can save U.S$ 212 billion from 2010 to 2019 against a cost of U.S$ 38.8 billion that the government would have incurred to build the centers. This is happening because of lower overall medical expenses for these patients.
Last year the health centers already generated health system savings of U.S$ 24 billion.
What then is happening in the largest democracy of the planet – our own India, towards such healthcare reform?
India in its 1983 National Healthcare Policy committed ‘healthcare to all by the year 2000′. However, the fact is, in 2009, only 35 percent of Indian population is having access to affordable modern medicines. So many commendable policy announcements have been made by the government thereafter. Due to poor governance, nothing seems to work effectively in our country.
People with access to the corridors of power appear to believe that when the country will clock the magic number of GDP growth of 9 percent, India will have adequate resources to invest in healthcare. Till then frugal healthcare initiatives will continue at the abysmal level of speed of execution, denying access to affordable modern medicines to 65 percent of population of the country.
If and when the healthcare reform plans will be unfolded in India, hopefully like in the USA, all stakeholders will come forward with their own slice of contribution to ensure access to affordable high quality healthcare to all the citizens of our nation.
When the world believes that healthcare reform measures to cover the entire population of the country to provide access to affordable, high quality healthcare services is fundamental to economic progress of a country, the government of India seems to nurture a diametrically opposite view in this regard. The policy makers appear to sincerely believe that 9 percent economic growth is essentiall to provide access to affordable high quality healthcare to all.
Are we engaged in the well known “Catch 22” debate at the cost of health to all?
By Tapan 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.