NEW DELHI: A one of its kind study to analyse the burden of Covid treatment on the working population in India has estimated that the medical cost of seeking treatment by households is “enormous and unsustainable”.
The researchers associated with the Public Health Foundation of India and Duke Global Health Institute found that the mean cost for Covid testing was Rs 2,229 per test in a private facility and free in public facilities.
Also, the average cost of home isolation was Rs 829 while a 10-day episode of hospital isolation in a private facility was Rs 67,470, and admission to the intensive care unit cost Rs 128,110.
This, it was estimated, meant that to afford hospital isolation, regular employees would need to spend the equivalent of 124 days of wages while self-employed and casual workers would spend 170 days, and 257 days respectively.
On the other hand, for ICU hospitalization, casual workers, regular employees, and self-employed workers would require 481 days, 318 days, and 232 days of work respectively.
“Thus, affordability of Covid services is far worse among casual workers, wherein annual wage falls short of ICU hospitalization cost for 90% of workers and hospital isolation costs for 48% of workers. Among self-employed workers, the proportions of their annual wages,” noted the researchers.
For regular employees, the analysis found that for 51% and 15% of them, their annual salaries could not afford to pay for ICU admission or hospital isolation respectively.
“Our study has shown that households are subject to considerable financial burden rendering a sizable segment unable to afford Covid services,” the authors noted.
The analysis suggested that the estimated total costs to households for out-of-pocket payments for Covid19 testing and treatment over the period April 2020 to March 2021 was over Rs 34000 crore while total costs to the government over the same period was Rs 30,000 crore.
Also, the number of cases in just one quarter of 2021 – from April to June was estimated to be 1.78 crore cases against 1.22 crore during the entire financial year April 2020 to March 2021.
Consequently, the associated total costs to households were far higher at about Rs 29,000 crore as against Rs 34,000 crore during the financial year 2020-21.
For the government alone in the second wave involving only three months (April to June 2021), the estimated cost works out to about 12% of the annual budget of states and central government put together, the study has said.