Draft national health policy aims at more than doubling public health spending to 2.5% of GDP

The draft National Health Policy, 2015, has proposed a target of raising public health expenditure to 2.5 per cent from the present 1.2 per cent of GDP. Besides, 40 per cent of this would come from central budget.

The draft policy issued by the health ministry on Wednesday seeks comments from various stakeholders, and also suggests making health a fundamental right similar to education and punishable in case of denial. "The centre shall enact, after due discussion and on the request of three or more states a National Health Rights Act, which will ensure health as a fundamental right, whose denial will be justiciable," the draft says.

The draft policy now in the public domain would be open for public consultation till 28 February. The new policy is being introduced almost 13 years after the drafting of the last policy.

As per the draft document, government would rely mostly on general taxation for financing healthcare expenditure. "With the projection of a promising economic growth, the fiscal capacity to provide this level of financing should become available," it said.

Meanwhile, the Times of India reported that with health a high priority, the government was also exploring the possibility of creating a ''health cess'' to raise the necessary resources.

The union health ministry has proposed the following formulation in the draft for the new national health policy: ''The centre shall enact, after due discussion and on the request of three or more states (using the same legal clause as used for the Clinical Establishments Bill) a National Health Rights Act, which will ensure health as a fundamental right whose denial will be justiciable''.

The draft, on which suggestions had been invited from the stakeholders, suggests that ''states would be able to voluntarily opt for this by a resolution of their legislative assembly. States which have achieved a public health expenditure rate of over Rs3,800 per capita (at current prices) should be in a position to deliver on this - and though many states are some distance away, there are states which are approaching or have even reached this target.''

The government feels such a policy formulation would be the right signal to give a push ''for more public health expenditure as well as for the recognition of health as a basic human right, and its realisation as a goal that the nation must set itself''.

Meanwhile, public health experts have called for adopting a system of universal health cover in the country.

India faced multiple health challenges, its healthcare system was, however, not geared up for an effective solution, president of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), professor K Srinath Reddy, said yesterday. He called for a system of universal health coverage (UHC).

Reddy was part of an expert group on UHC appointed by the now disbanded Planning Commission. According to Reddy, UHC would help improve access to health services without imposing financial hardship. He was delivering the annual Ganga Ram Institute of Medical Education and Research lecture.