COVID-19 hospitalization costs impose substantial financial burden on Indian patients, says GlobalData

India’s public expenditure on healthcare has exposed weaknesses in its infrastructure, especially during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Against this backdrop, patients must rely on private hospitals, which is imposing a heavy economic burden on COVID-19 patients, says GlobalData, a leading data analytics and research company.

In its FY 2021 Union Budget, India has more than doubled its spending on healthcare. However, the current expenditure is not sufficient as the country spends just over 1% of its GDP on healthcare.

State governments in India have fixed the COVID-19 patients’ treatment charges at private hospitals. In addition, they are closely ensuring that hospitals are not overcharging. However, COVID-19 management is getting expensive as treatment depends on the number of days of stay, co-morbidities, and the required oxygen support. If patients are shifted to ICU, this cost dramatically increases. Moreover, this cost increases if multiple family members are admitted to the hospital.

Prashant Khadayate, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “It is a well-known fact that patients without sufficient insurance coverage have to bear the huge financial burden for treatments at private hospitals. COVID-19 has exposed this dire situation at a broad level, with several families struggling to pay the hospital bills.”

Recently, the Public Health Foundation of India and the Duke Global Health Institute paper on the cost and affordability of COVID-19 testing and treatment in India highlighted that a sizeable segment in India will be unable to afford COVID-19 treatment and services.

According to GlobalData’s ‘Pharmaceutical Intelligence Center’ (as of 31 July 2021), India has fully vaccinated 7.5% of its population and administered more than 461 million doses.

India is reporting over 40,000 COVID-19 confirmed cases daily and R-value* has started increasing again. In July 2021, India announced the INR230bn (US$3.09bn) COVID-19 management package to improve the healthcare infrastructure to tackle the third wave. As per the panel appointed by the government, India will additionally need 0.2 million ICU beds with 0.1 million ventilator beds.

Mr Khadayate concludes: “India observed a severe second wave of COVID-19 during April-May 2021 and the third wave could hit soon. The COVID-19 related package will make government hospitals more prepared than they were in the second wave. However, governments should also come out with financial relief to support patients and families struggling with financial burden due to COVID-19 hospitalization costs.”

*R-value: The R-value is a way of measuring coronavirus or any disease’s ability to spread. R is the average number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus.

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