Health costs make Indians financially sick, finds disease-specific report

According to a WHO-World Bank report released last year, India accounts for about half of the estimated 100 million people pushed into poverty worldwide every year due to out-of-pocket expenses.

Published: 21st May 2018 02:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st May 2018 04:38 AM   |  A+A-

Pharmacists dispense medication at a government hospital. | File Photo

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Cancer, genito-urinary conditions and heart diseases are the biggest reasons why millions of Indians are pushed into extreme poverty every year, the first-ever disease-specific analysis of out-of-pocket and catastrophic health expenditure on hospitalisation has found.

The other diseases that force a large number of people to sell properties or land or borrow huge amounts of money include gastrointestinal disorders, neurological and musculoskeletal conditions, injuries, jaundice, diabetes, respiratory diseases, asthma and tuberculosis.

The study carried out by researchers at the Mumbai based International Institute of Population Sciences also reveals that mean cost of hospitalisation in India is Rs 19,210 and it is the highest for cancer at Rs 57,232 followed by heart diseases at Rs 40, 947.

According to a WHO-World Bank report released last year, India accounts for about half of the estimated 100 million people pushed into poverty worldwide every year due to out-of-pocket expenses on health care.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s data says that almost 4.9 crore Indians are impacted by catastrophic healthcare expenses annually but there was no dissection done on which are the diseases that lead to the situation.

“There have been many studies to examine variation in disease patterns so we thought, it would be relevant to analyse disease-specific out-of-pocket expenditure, catastrophic health expenditure and distress health financing,” said Anshul Kastor, co-author of the study.

The study, which has used unit data from the National Sample Survey Organisation (2014), notes that India is experiencing the triple burden of diseases, that is, rising non-communicable diseases, increasing injuries and the unfinished agenda of infectious diseases.

“The disease pattern is changing rapidly, with non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes becoming the leading cause of mortality,” it says.

It has also highlighted that NCDs in India accounted 50 per cent of total deaths in 2004 which increased to 60 per cent by 2014.

“Similarly, hospitalisation due to NCDs accounted for 29 per cent of total hospitalisation in 2004 and increased to 38 per cent by 2014.

The share of out-of-pocket expenditure on total health spending has remained stagnant during the period (71 per cent in 2004 and 69 per cent in 2014,” said the study.

The analysis has recommended that free treatment for cancer and heart diseases should be provided for the vulnerable sections of the society.

Experts pointed out that much of the findings were expected as not only cancer and cardiovascular disease but many conditions like neurological disorders lead to distress financing by families.

“Neurological disorders common in elderly include stroke, dementia, Parkinson’s disease,” said Pettrusp Wadia, a consultant neurologist in Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai. 

Priya Balasubramaniam, an expert with Delhi-based Public Health Foundation of India said that covering more and more people for NCDs along with a robust primary health care is the only way to reduce catastrophic health burden on millions of Indians.


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  • Ranjana Smetacek

    Here is the reality: we need to either pay for healthcare via our taxes (but too small a percentage of Indians pay their taxes) or mandate health insurance. Most Indians don't understand the concept of an annual premium unless they can instantly see what they purchased!
    5 years ago reply
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