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Can COVID-19 crisis lead to stronger healthcare sector in India?

Pandemic could act as a trigger and public health could get a boost in India.

With about 1.2% of GDP spending by the government and weak existing infrastructure, the healthcare sector in India has been in the need of reforms even before the outbreak of COVID-19. As coronavirus positive cases continue to plummet in the country, there has been huge pressure on the healthcare sector.

Due to limited facilities, poor & fragmented access, India is poised for deep structural health reforms. Once reforms start, the results could be dramatic over a 10-15 year period. India, at present, has access to both the income levels and building blocks that have been a precursor to game-changing reforms in over 20 nations. It would reduce out-of-pocket medical expenses and improve the existing health care facilities, thereby resulting in more than a doubling of outpatient visits per capita.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to be a plausible option now as the Healthcare sector in India is already under immense pressure due to COVID-19 pandemic. Early precautions and lockdown extension has not been able to contain a surge in COVID-19 infections which now stands at about 23k cases with over 700 deaths.

However, structural reforms seem imminent in India. COVID-19 pandemic could trigger a change in the time to come an opportunity for large-scale reforms in India & could make health care an important topic for voters.

Secondly, the emergence of technocratic capability, like how Kerala reacted to both the Nipah and COVID-19 outbreaks could serve as an example for other states to follow. With the help of technocratic capabilities, more digital insurance models and low-cost hospitals could prop up across the country. Once the crisis is over, we could have stronger healthcare in India.

The COVID-19 crisis and the presence of these building blocks will provide a big impetus to healthcare sector in India. Furthermore, the growth of digital innovation could act as an encouragement to future reforms, given how Aadhar has become accessible across the people.

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