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Medical costs hit the roof...

High prices of cement. Huge rise in housing prices. Soaring prices of PVC and a wide range of plastics products when oil prices on which these are based have dropped drastically. A crash in rubber prices contrasted with soaring tyre prices. India has been witnessing unhealthy, oligopolistic trends. These hurt the consumer, arrest growth and deny the fruits of competition to the average citizen.

This is witnessed even more acutely widely in the healthcare sector. The entry of corporates into the healthcare sector three decades ago, triggered by Apollo Hospitals’ P C Reddy, has helped bring world class healthcare facilities to India. Multi-specialty hospitals in metros and even Tier II cities vie with one another in offering quality healthcare. Speciality and super speciality hospitals abound. These cater to the requirements of the vast range of illnesses from cardiac problems to diabetes to eye care, hearing problems to skin diseases, dental problems, et al. These have substantially reduced the need to go abroad for treatment. Large hospitals like Sankara Nethralaya conduct surgeries on the lines of assembly lines of automobile factories.

In line with these a large number of support services have developed like diagnostic centres, scanning services, pharmacies, secondary level 24x7 clinics, blood banks, dialysis centres...

There is again a higher degree of sophistication in medical devices and hundreds of synthetic and artificial parts that are widely used. These have helped in quality medicare and the relief they provide from suffering.

All these are welcome. Sadly, however, costs have been ballooning. Pioneers like P C Reddy explain it away on the costs of implants, a vast range of surgical material, medical devices and the increasing range of expensive diagnostic machines that are imported.  With increasing sophistication of these replacements with higher efficiencies involve ever larger funding. There is the compulsion to generate resources to service the capital, to reward investors and for making fresh capital expenditure.

With increasing longevity and rise in prosperity, demand for better healthcare has been on the rise; over the past decade, health insurance, especially by the middle classes and above, has been expanding.

However, there is the concern over costs. Surveys point to large sections of the population incurring huge expenditure on surgeries and treatment that take them to the point of bankruptcy and penury. It has become urgently necessary to make concerted efforts to contain costs.

 

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