DR. NIRAJ REGMI
Health economics is now a specialized branch of economics related to different issues in the production and consumption of health and health-care. Health-care system dominates the economic and political areas in any developed countries and is becoming a major economic issue in the developing nations. It accounts for a major share of GDP in most developed countries. Regarding Nepal, the total health expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 5.5 per cent in 2010 and ranks third among SAARC countries, after Afghanistan (7.6 per cent) and Maldives (6.3 per cent).
Like in general economics, health-care economics also has a demand and supply side. But, there are certain differences. The demand side (consumers) encompasses people seeking healthy life/life style and supply side being those who provide health-care, e.g. doctors, nurses, technicians, etc. Thus, every individual becomes a part of the health-care system where uncertainty exists on both the demand and supply side even after major investments are made in this sector. Consumers are uncertain about their own health status and the need for health check-up. When they do feel the need, they are then uncertain about the purchase (in this case, purchase refers to better health) as they do not know which one is the best treatment to buy. Decision is then taken up by health-care professionals, and, thus, in health-care, suppliers decide what consumers buy. This makes the health-care system very different from the general market, wherein, consumers decide what they buy to satisfy their needs. This whole jumbled-up process causes irregularity in seeking health-care services.
Uncertainty is prevalent in the supply side too. Health-care providers are also not totally sure about the best treatment option they can provide. It depends on the knowledge they have gathered from their training and their past experiences. Still, the same treatment for the same disease may not work with similar results in a different person. Considering that you are dealing with life/disability situation, this factor of uncertainty becomes hard to accept. Hence, uncertainty becomes one of the major factors for the emergence of health-care insurance system, which in the context of Nepal is still in a very primitive stage.
It is, thus, necessary that people encompassing both the demand and the supply side become responsible towards their health and the health of others. Medical practitioners should try to focus on the best cost-effective treatment available and patients should gather some knowledge about their disease in order to deliver and receive an acceptable treatment.