Public health experts and activists are attacking a proposal by India’s leading government think tank that recommends handing many of the country’s healthcare responsibilities to the private sector.
The document, written by India’s Planning Commission, proposes eliminating the government as the primary healthcare provider. Instead, it would focus on specific areas such as immunisation and HIV testing. Getting rid of many of its other responsibilities would amount to a shortcut to its goal of universal healthcare. Patients would get private healthcare at a cost that the government would negotiate with the private sector, and service providers could be reimbursed for each medical prescription.
The proposal, which is similar to the managed care system in the United States, caused such a ruckus that some of the major parties who contributed to the plan have distanced themselves from it. Members of the High Level Expert Group set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, say that the commission has distorted their recommendations.
“Planning Commissions’ document calls for a ‘managed healthcare’ approach where the role of the government is reduced from a provider to that of a manager,” said Rakhal Gaitonde, a public health researcher and state coordinator for the government’s National Rural Health Mission in Tamil Nadu.
“Expert group’s report only calls for strengthening and expansion of public health system, and contracting private players to fill the gap in areas where expansion is not possible,” said Rakhal. “The commission in its proposal has distorted the recommendations of the expert group by portraying managed care approach as the best possible solution.”