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FHS India Research Brief 4 - Catastrophic Health Care Payment: how much protected are the users of public hospitals?

Future Health Systems

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Every year an estimated 25 million households — more than 100 million people — are plunged into poverty when they or their relatives become ill and they must struggle to pay for health-care services out of their own pockets.1 Indian health care market demonstrates it well where a health shock often implies an enormous burden of treatment to an affected household consequently leading to significant erosion of its pre-shock endowment. One conservative estimate shows that one quarter of hospitalized Indians slip below the poverty line due to hospital expenses.

The present research brief presents some recent evidences on the incidence of catastrophic financial shocks experienced by the users of public vis-à-vis private hospitals in one Indian state (West Bengal). The scenario is especially interesting in West Bengal, where public sector plays a dominant role in providing inpatient care. The findings presented below would therefore help understand whether and to what extent a strong presence of public sector is an adequate instrument for financial protection.