Editorial – Economic Times :

New national health policy: The scope is large, yet the means are sparse

As broad roadmaps go, the National Health Policy 2017 is comprehensive (Including all or everything). It sets access to affordable, comprehensive and quality healthcare for all as a priority for the government. Sensibly, it stops short of making healthcare a justiciable (Proper to be examined in a court of justice) right and focuses, instead, on pathways to universalise affordable and quality healthcare.

It sets milestones both in terms of public financing and programme impacts. The policy commits the government to increase public spend on healthcare from the current 1.15% to 2.5% of GDP by 2025, and sets a floor of 8% of state budget for states to meet by 2020.

While it still is focused on putting in place a tax-financed system where the government is the single payer, it acknowledges that ensuring healthcare access for all will require working with the private sector, and setting priorities. The aim is to buttress (A support usually of stone or brick) public health, nutrition and the primary healthcare system, moving to assured comprehensive care — with every family having a health card that makes them eligible for a defined package of services anywhere in the country.

Ensuring improved access and affordability of secondary and tertiary care, the public hospital system will be supplemented by the strategic government purchase of secondary and tertiary care from public, not-for-profit private and private providers in that descending order of preference. The idea is to curb (Control) the high proportion of out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, often as much as 70%.

The focus on preventive care finds expression in terms of cross-sectoral goals, such as reduction of tobacco use, improved sanitation and addressing occupational injuries. There is some detailing on improving health infrastructure and human resource: increasing availability of doctors, improvements and regulation in medical education, and putting in place health management information systems.

The policy needs an array of supportive laws, regulations and agencies yet to be created. Further, the use of market methods to align incentives of private providers and patients remains under-explored.