The Congress will roll out a universal Right to Healthcare law, entitling people to free diagnostics and medicines by a network of public hospitals, if it comes to power in the summer’s general elections, party president Rahul Gandhi said on Friday. The promise will be included in the party’s national manifesto, he added.
Speaking at the concluding assembly of a two-day convention on ‘Health for All’ organised by the Raipur-based Mayaram Surjan Foundation, he continued that the party, if voted to power, would more than double government spending on healthcare to about 3% of gross domestic product and expand the number of trained medical professionals to provide high-quality services.
According to the national health profile published in January, the government pays 1.2% of GDP on healthcare, which translated to Rs 1,112 per year per citizen in 2015-16, compared with Rs 691 in 2009-10. The Congress president, who previously promised a minimum income guarantee for every citizen, also said on Friday that a government led by his party would increase spending on education to 5-6% of GDP.
Former finance minister and head of Congress manifesto committee P Chidambaram later tweeted that the suggested law would provide for an increase in the number of doctors by establishing more medical colleges and providing more scholarships and loans to medical students.
“Government expenditure on the health sector will be doubled between 2019 and 2024 to 3% of the Gross Domestic Product,” he tweeted.
The National Health Policy published by the BJP-led NDA government in March 2017 has been criticized by some analysts for being a watered-down version of the original draft. From health being considered a fundamental right, which was mentioned in the original draft, the revised policy “assured healthcare to all’, with the implementation left largely to states, they added.
“There were exhaustive consultations, after which it was decided to mention “assured healthcare to all”. Health is ultimately a state subject to the implementation lies with them, but obviously with help from the center,” Union health minister JP Nadda told while detailing the policy.
Experts tell it is time the government made healthcare a fundamental right.
“Inadequate infrastructure is no excuse; the government needs to strengthen infrastructure to meet the healthcare needs of people. Public healthcare delivery system must be improved as it is the right of people to get proper treatment. There should be a national law for it,” stated Ashok Aggarwal a lawyer and an activist.
The previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government drafted a policy on health for all that suggested putting in place a national health mission to improve the health infrastructure in the villages and towns of India.