India’s battle against unneeded medical care finds World Bank support

Thursday, July 31, 2014

(Reuters) – India needs to curtail excessive medical care that leads to patient overspending as more people get health insurance, the World Bank said on Thursday, adding voice to a growing chorus against overtreatment in the country.

Practices such as “defensive medicine” and aggressive marketing by hospitals, which cost the United States an estimated $250 billion to $300 billion annually, are emerging as a serious problem in India, the Washington-based institution warned.

The comments come as India’s new government has vowed to crack down on unethical practices that plague India’s $74 billion healthcare industry, where doctors say getting kickbacks for referring patients or passing inflated hospital bills to insurers is widespread.

The World Bank warned that as more people are able to afford healthcare and the government ramps up insurance coverage, the risk of excessive care may increase, in notes released from an April meeting with policymakers and insurers.

Awareness of how get a medical claim remains low in India and out-of-pocket expenses remain high. While more than 630 million people are forecast to have some form of health insurance by next year, more than half the country will remain uninsured.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is also working on what may be the world’s largest health insurance program, partially inspired by the “Obamacare” law in the United States.

As more and more patients become insured, the size of their bills may grow, the World Bank said. “Individuals in India with private voluntary health insurance are two to three times more likely to be hospitalized than the national average.”

Source: Reuters (link opens in a new window)

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