The Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI(M), has released its party manifesto for the general elections. Pleasantly the word ‘health’ is mentioned thirty times.
The vision document starts with the party’s top priority to defeat the BJP and form an alternative, secular government at the Centre. It then goes on pledge diversion of resources from ‘crony capitalism’ to ‘education, quality healthcare, employment and a decent livelihood.’
The party has hit the nail on its head by promising to raise the healthcare expenditure to at least 3.5 percent of GDP in the short term and five percent of GDP in the long term. This would entail a significantly enhanced allocation from the Centre and fulfil a long-sought demand of health activists, who feel healthcare accessibility and quality can only be improved by increasing budget allocations.With a pledge for ‘Right to Health’, the CPI(M) seeks to strengthen, expand and reorient the public health system so that it is accountable to local communities and guarantees free and easy access to a range of comprehensive healthcare services.
The manifesto seeks to scrap current BJP government’s much publicised Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana – better known as Ayushman Bharat – which they claim it is based on a ‘discredited insurance model’. Instead, it seeks to reverse the trend of privatisation of healthcare services and outsourcing of services through public-private partnerships. To solve the concerns related to crunch in medical staff, it seeks to prioritise the setting up of new colleges to train doctors and nurses by the Government.
In a bid to regulate the private sector, CPI(M) aims to bring them under the National Clinical Establishment Act, 2010, which requires all clinical establishments to register themselves and provides a set of standard treatment guidelines for common diseases and conditions. This will warrant observance of patients’ rights, regulation of rates and quality of various services.
Their other health promises include
- Ensuring right based access to comprehensive treatment and care of persons with mental illness through an integration of the revised District Mental Health Programme with the National Health Mission
- Ensuring uninterrupted supply of all medicines, free of cost, in all public health facilities; hazardous formulations of medicines to be weeded out from the market
- Controlling prices of essential drugs by adopting a cost-based pricing formula; minimum cost-maximum retail price (MRP) margin and removal of all taxes on medicines in National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). They also want to reduce huge excise duty on medicines by reversing from MRP-based to cost-based collection
- Initiating programs to break the monopoly of drug multinationals in critical areas
- Reviving the public sector pharmaceutical units to harness them for production of essential drugs and vaccines
- Strictly controlling and regulating clinical trials and prohibiting unethical clinical trials
- Removing US government’s drug law enforcing agency USFDA’s offices and officials from India
- Defend India’s patent laws and ensure no dilution
While both the BJP and Congress are still to come out with their vision document for health ahead of the elections, exploring the proposals of other parties adds value as it enhances the debate surrounding healthcare as elections loom and offers potential roadmaps for future developments in Indian healthcare.