In a world where health is constantly under threat, the Right to Health Bill, of 2022 comes as a beacon of hope. Imagine a world where every individual has access to basic healthcare services regardless of social, economic, or political status. A world where the right to life and health is not just a mere statement, but a reality.
This bill is not just a piece of legislation; it's a promise to the people, to provide them with the necessary facilities to maintain their health and well-being.
Introduction of Right to Health Bill, 2022
On March 21, Rajasthan the sun city made history by passing the Right to Health Act (RTH), 2023. Such a law has not yet been passed in any other Indian state and is made in consonance with Article 21 of the Constitution, i.e., the Right to Life, which the Supreme Court has interpreted as the right to live in dignity. The Act intends to provide protection and fulfillment of rights and equity in health and well-being under Article 47 (Duty of the state to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health).
Rajasthan is the largest state in terms of area and has a population of about 80 million people. It falls under the category of "weak" states based on its economic and health indicators. The right to health law was passed in an effort by the government to increase access to high-quality healthcare without forcing families to incur prohibitive costs.
Even though the Right to Health Act's drafting process started shortly after Congress took office, however implementation of the law has had a difficult road. Things started to move more quickly after the pandemic i.e. in late 2021. According to the bill, public health specialists, bureaucrats, and representatives of the general public would be in charge of the state and district-level health provision authorities. Following its publication on the Department of Medical, Health, and Family Welfare's official website, it was further altered and had its mandates and scope toned down.
Provisions of Right to Health Bill, 2022
The right to food, education, employment, and information are currently guaranteed to citizens of India, but the right to health is not one of them. This Act significantly closes the gap. In addition to lowering out-of-pocket expenses (OoPE) on healthcare, it will lower morbidities and avoidable fatalities.
According to the Bill, all public health institutions and some private facilities will offer free healthcare services, including consultations, medications, diagnostics, emergency transport, procedures, and emergency care, subject to the terms laid out in the rules, which are currently being developed.
All residents will have the right to receive emergency care and treatment for unavoidable emergencies without having to pay any upfront fees or charges.
No public or private hospital can postpone treatment in a medico-legal situation based solely on receiving police approval. The law also states that "if the patient does not pay required charges after emergency care, stabilisation, and transfer, the healthcare provider shall be entitled to receive the required fee and charges or proper reimbursement from the state government."
Patients who were admitted to private facilities but failed to make the necessary payments after stabilisation are covered by the Act.
The bill grants patients the right to know the name, credentials, and other information about the healthcare provider as well as access to their records and itemised bills.
When a female patient is being examined by a male practitioner, the patient has the right to the presence of a female, information about the costs and rates of the services, the choice of where to get tests or medications, the ability to get a second opinion, and the right to a treatment summary if the patient leaves the facility against medical advice.
The Bill's rules would further define the rights and obligations of healthcare providers and the obligations and responsibilities of patients.
This Bill also mandates the establishment of a district health authority in each district to provide advice to the government, oversee the Act's implementation, and serve as an appeals body for complaints, as well as two state health authorities (one for treatment protocols and the other for logistical grievances).
One of the main concerns about providing free emergency care to patients is already addressed in the Bill, and the government and doctors' association have agreed to establish a mechanism for fair reimbursement of hospital expenses in such circumstances.
Thus, the Right To Health Care Bill which is now passed and known as Rajasthan Right to Health Care Act 2022 Act calls for enhancing the public healthcare system, defending and safeguarding patient and healthcare provider rights, and increasing accountability and transparency in the health systems.
The challenges related to Right to Health Bill, 2022
The changes to the Bill have resulted in the weakening of some crucial clauses and provisions.
There are no public representatives, members of civil society, or paramedics in the state and district health authorities. These authorities, which ought to have been highly inclusive, instead take the form of undemocratic and exclusive government structures.
Only Rajasthani citizens are covered by the Right to Health Bill. This is deemed to be discriminatory as it would exclude a significant portion of the state's population, such as migrant workers, refugees, nomads, homeless individuals, etc. who are from the most underprivileged areas.
Read Right to health Act, here.