Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coping with rising medical costs in India

Medical expenses are a serious concern for Indians. Things which we can do to address the problem (both at personal and policy-making level) are given below.
At a personal level:
  • Plan for medical emergencies: Medical insurance is must but not enough. There are articles on websites like medimanage.com where strategies beyond medical insurance are explained.
  • Start exercising regularly: Every financial planner should become an expert in basic health coaching too. The two fields are tied at hips now. A regular exercise regimen cuts down the probability of many medical expenses.
  • Hospital/Insurance-companies are symptoms, not cause of the problem: A politically incorrect thought-process which I do not dare to share on public forum. The gist of the thought process is that we (patients/family) can solve the problem ourselves. One should not blame hospitals and insurance companies. They are being run by good people who need to make profits and it is not easy to draw a line where profits should end. Expecting doctors/clinics/hospitals to be non-profit-seeking-social-workers is a very cruel injustice.
At a policy making level:
  • Enforce copay: Discourage insurance schemes which provide complete coverage. There should be minimum 20-25% copay. This would force people (and consequently the medical business) to be cost conscious.
  • Unshackle medical infrastructure: Remove the barriers to set up hospitals/clinics/medical colleges. In the name of quality, all the command-control and restrictions breed inefficiency and corruption. Public is smart enough to figure out the bad doctor and bad hospital.
  • Do not damn alternative medicine: Till we find a satisfactory solution, do not publicly posture or legislate against alternative medicine, however unscientific it might be. Homeopathy, ayurved, unani, siddhi, tantriks, vodoo, quacks, religious-godmen-healers(and what not) should not be banned. Alternative medicine is either one of the following two and both the options are beneficial for psychological well being.
  • healing at a lower cost (if you choose to believe in them) OR
    It is giving peace to patients and their well-wishers, letting them think that they are doing everything they can do and are not hindered by costs. (if you chose not to believe in alternative medicine). 

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