Where loans and insurance turning out to be tedious solutions to tackling medical bills, people are turning to alternative methods, like crowd funding.
Recent findings by The Lancet have suggested that India ranks 154 out of 195 countries in accessible healthcare systems as of 2017. That is a significant drop in rankings when compared to the WHO report in 2000, where India stood at 112 out of 190 countries on the healthcare index. On the other hand, the healthcare sector in India is one of the largest in the world in terms of revenue generation and employment. In fact, with a 16.5% annual growth rate, the healthcare industry is estimated to touch $280 billion by 2020.
70% of the Indian population has little or no access to proper medical facilities like hospital or clinics. India has the lowest per capita healthcare expenditure in the world which forces people to pay 61% of their medical expenses from their own pockets. Government run facilities are lacking in quality and infrastructure and a majority of the population cannot afford private health care. And, only 10-15% of Indians are rescued by insurance plans during the time of emergency.
The rural and urban imbalance
70% of the Indian population lives in rural areas. It is safe to say that this contrast can be associated to the inefficiency of delivery and distribution of healthcare in India, which is categorized between public and private facilities. In most of these rural areas, health care facilities are government aided and are limited to secondary and tertiary institutions that offer only basic treatments in their hospitals and clinics. As a result, the greater majority of the rural population turns to alternative medicine and cures for illnesses. A stark contrast is the urban metros, tier 1 and tier 2 cities that have a high concentration of privatized institutions with highly trained medical professionals, advanced medical equipment, and specialized treatments.
According to an article by The Hindu, only 12% of the urban and 13% of the rural population had access to insurance coverage. Households at the bottom of the financial pyramid are the ones that are less aware of health insurance, and those that are aware of it, steer clear because of unaffordability. The majority of the insurance in rural areas are government-funded schemes, rather than private insurance companies, who have shown little standing in lesser developed parts of the nation.
Low public healthcare budgets
Poor insurance coverage and coupled with small budgets for public healthcare facilities are increasing the disparity between urban and rural populations. A Techstory article states that India spent only 30% of the budget allocated to healthcare in the last financial year. China spends 5.6 times more, the US 125 times more than India. Even though the 2017 union budget increased expenditure towards this sector from INR 39,879 crore to INR 48,878 crore, most of it has been allocated towards human resources and medical education. It is the infrastructure in lesser developed parts of India that needs to get more attention, not only in terms of hospitals and clinics, but also basic sanitation facilities that would automatically reduce the number of communicable diseases. Health concerns like malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, and under-nourishment, are still very critical problems that we face.
High out-of-pocket expenditure
The primary method of meeting all medical expenditure in our country is from personal savings or out-of-pocket savings. It is interesting to note that despite having to spend from their savings, a growing number of individuals opt for private healthcare. The main reason is the dismal quality of treatment, outdated equipment, and non-specialized treatments. But what is the immediate result of it? Most of the people who cannot afford private hospitals (based on their annual income) resort to taking loans, which leaves them with large debts that need to be repaid.
Crowd funding for financial relief
In the quest of finding other sources to pay for their medical expenditure, alternative methods of fundraising, like crowd funding, have seen rapid growth in India. S Platforms offer fundraising assistance to cover any kind of medical treatment. While most patients and their families waste precious time running behind banks and insurance companies to get their treatment, some have started opting for crowd funding, that allows them to raise money from their friends, family, and various networks online in a quick and easy manner.
It is estimated that around 10,000 people need an organ transplant in India each year with the surgery costing anywhere between 25 to 50 lakhs. When it comes to battling cancer, India has the lowest survival rate in the world. The Lancet journal attributes this to the lack of sufficient access to diagnosis and treatment. It is estimated that the cost of drugs for cancer, depending on the case, can cost close to 1 lakh for each treatment cycle. Crowd funding then becomes an effective remedy to deal with the piling medical bills. And it seems to be working very well.
There is no one solution to the severe challenges in India’s healthcare system, a combination of government intervention, improved facilities, and larger budgets, is the first step forward. In the meantime, alternative fundraising methods like crowd funding are providing relief to low-income populations with high medical expenditure.
This article has been authored by Piyush Jain, CEO & CO-Founder Impact Guru