Hospital admissions were rampant in India during the killing of the second deadly Covid. Now, under the influence of crude insurance, Indians are working to mobilize large numbers of medical bills, reports Astha Rajvanshi.
Supraja Reddy Yeruva failed to breathe properly days after giving birth to her second child in June. The 27-year-old boy started showing signs of Covid-19 during her pregnancy, shortly after a visit to the hospital for regular check-ups.
Soon, he contracted a severe lung infection and was admitted to the ICU in a private hospital just south of the city of Hyderabad. The moon goes on, you’re still there.
With their six-year-old daughter and newborn son, her husband, Vijaya Yeruva, is now anxiously awaiting her recovery.
Mr Yeruva also strives to pay a heavy sum of nearly 6m rupees (£ 58,636; $ 80,615) for his wife’s treatment. And the price goes up by day.
He used his health insurance, took out his credit cards and borrowed from a bank. After finishing everything else, the 35-year-old turned to Ketto, a fundraiser, and presented the wallet.
“I have worked hard to support my family and I have never asked anyone for help,” he said. “Even now, I’m ashamed to tell people about this wallet.”
His despair reflects the plight of thousands of Indian families now facing bankruptcy damages based on India’s second Covid wave: pressuring medical debt.
Many have turned to money laundering to pay for hospital bills – and it has quickly emerged as a place for health insurance and government support.
Experts say the three largest humanitarian agencies – Ketto, Milaap and Give India – have raised an estimated $ 161m with the help of 2.7 million donors so far during the epidemic.
Ketto, where Mr. Yeruva presented his fundraiser, said he had grown four times between the two waves, raising more than $ 40m in some 12,000 Covid charity campaigns.
“In many cases, mass support was another safe way to fill the gaps in the health system,” said Ravina Banze and Irfan Bashir, co-authors of the book, Crowdfunding: The Story of People.
Even before the epidemic broke out, a great need for reimbursement was evident in the lives of millions of sick people in India.
Out-of-pocket healthcare costs pushed 38 million into poverty in 2011-2012, according to a 2018 study by the British Medical Journal and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
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There are no details on how many others were forced to pay for medical bills during the epidemic, but an initial study by the Duke Global Health Institute and PHFI estimates that two-thirds of India’s self-employed and half-paid workers were unable to afford critical care.
The burden falls on the poorest in India, a group that last year rose by more than 230 million Indians, according to researchers at Azim Premji University. More than 90% have borrowed an average of $ 201 to pay off debts.
India’s public spending on health accounts with only 1.2% of its GDP – is among the lowest in the world, about two-thirds of Indians travel without health insurance.
“Unexpected emergencies are a way of finding a disaster where most people are constantly threatened with financial instability,” Mr Bashir said.
In 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to pay free to India’s poorest citizens by launching “Modicare”, the world’s largest health insurance scheme.
However, Proxima Consulting analysis found that only 13% of those eligible under the scheme were able to apply for insurance when they were admitted to Covid treatment in public and private hospitals.
The scheme also does not cover the cost of trauma, which forms a large part of the cost of treatment.