Rajasthan Chief Minister inaugurates national conference on Universal Health Coverage
20 February 2015 - Jaipur: Mrs Vasundhara Raje, Chief Minister, Government of Rajasthan, today inaugurated a national conference on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) organized by the WHO Country Office for India in collaboration with the Government of Rajasthan. Sharing experiences and best practices, the conference focused on health insurance in the broader context of UHC.
The jointly conducted draft study, Health Needs Assessment in the state of Rajasthan, by WHO and Government of Rajasthan, was released at the event.
Mr Rajendra Singh Rathore, Health Minister, Government of Rajasthan and senior officials from the state government, including, Mr Mukesh Sharma, Principal Secretary (Medical); Mr Naveen Jain, NRHM Director; and Mr Neeraj K Pawan, NRHM Additional Director were present at the meeting.
In her inaugural address, the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Mrs Raje said, “Free services in our public health system have increased footfall in institutions and quality time given to patients need to be looked at. We need an out of box and innovative thinking to reach the ultimate destination of Universal Health Coverage by riding on the vehicle of ‘Health Insurance’. We already have ‘Bhamashah Card’ in place, so we need to use this advantage for providing seamless access to various healthcare services to the people of Rajasthan.”
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India said, “WHO appreciates the Government of Rajasthan’s efforts to strengthen its health system by formulating and implementing various reforms. Several recent dynamic initiatives such as ASHA-software, Bhamashah card would provide the necessary policy landscape to scale up the UHC agenda in the state. We look forward to further consolidation of these reforms with support from WHO.”
“WHO has been extensively involved in the evaluation of free medicines scheme in the state, which proved to have positive impact on the access to health services. This is an important step to reduce out of pocket payments and improve coverage and access to health services,” she added.
In his address, the Health Minister, Mr Rajendra Singh Rathore said, “Our hospitals are over-crowded due to free drugs and diagnostic services in our state and as a result, we need to use the private health facilities for sharing the burden. Health Insurance has been taken as a priority by our state to reach the objective of “Health for All” and by July 2015, we hope to have it in place.”
The Government of Rajasthan expressed its commitment to scaling-up the UHC momentum. The draft Health Needs Assessment study, however, highlighted that the current health status of population in Rajasthan demonstrates specific health system related challenges, such as equity in financial protection, quality, access to and utilization of health services, their effectiveness and responsiveness, etc.
Speaking at the conference, Principal Secretary - Health, Mr Mukesh Sharma highlighted that the state governments are in a better position to design precise UHC interventions based on the specific needs of the state and introduce broader health system reforms in order to advance UHC agenda.
Elaborating further, he said, “This concept is not solely about treatment; it includes prevention, promotion, rehabilitation and palliative services. Clearly the services provided must be of good quality. The main challenge is therefore to provide complete access to high-quality healthcare services.”
In his address, Mr Naveen Jain, Special Secretary and Mission Director, NHM, Rajasthan said, “Rajasthan has been taking many innovative ways to improve the monitoring of our health indicators and we understand that the quantitative aspect of healthcare is not the right criteria to evaluate a health delivery system but looking at the qualitative angles would be required. By learning not only from the existing successful models in the country, we want to learn from reasons of failure also, as far as health insurance issue is concerned.”
Rajasthan is one of the successful models of the free medicines and diagnostic scheme, which has shown the rest of the country that it can be achieved by means of few crucial elements. These include an increase in government’s health expenditure, establishment of a dedicated medical services corporation, and a transparent medicine procurement process.
Several important issues such as concepts, dimensions and essentials of UHC, health financing for UHC, health insurance models, role of public-private partnerships, etc. were discussed at the conference. Best practices from implementation of different health financing reforms in selected states of India were also deliberated.
The conference provided a good platform to facilitate policy dialogue between different stakeholders. This in turn supported identification of appropriate policy options for wider system reforms within the UHC framework. Several national and international experts of repute participated in the conference and shared their best practices, experiences and perspectives from across the globe.
The participants included officials from the union health ministry, district level health representatives from Rajasthan, and state officials of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. There was representation from the public sector, international organizations, non-profit think tanks, and premium academic institutions like IIM, Bangalore, amongst others.
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Mr Rajeev Varma
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WHO Country Office for India, New Delhi
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