Loans, EMIs may help fund life-saving surgery

When 57-year-old Nallasopara resident Bhavridevi Vaishav started fainting intermittently on December 1, her family was distressed. Their misery deepened when the doctor said she immediately needed a high-end pacemaker costing Rs 1.8 lakh to fix her weak heart. “I deal with locks and can’t raise lakhs instantly,” said her son Mahesh. 
    The Vaishnav family, like millions of middle-class families every day, came face to face with a harsh Indian reality: the lack of a safety net for health. Few Indians have health insurance, the middle-class shuns free-butspartan public hospitals and private healthcare comes at a premium. But these very Indian circumstances have given birth to new business models in healthcare financing. Indians can now buy a stent directly from a compa
ny in instalments or take a loan to finance obesity surgery or cycles of infertility treatment. The EMI (equated monthly instalments) mode that the middle-class is familiar with, has invaded the healthcare sphere too. 
    Certain chains of dental clinics, cosmetic clinics and eye hospitals had begun offering easy monthly instalments for not-so-expensive procedures in the last few years. But the EMI option was far from institutionalized in the Indian healthcare system. But the transition has now begun. 

    Multinational medical devices company Medtronic lets patients pay just Rs 600 per month and for up to seven years to purchase their cardiac devices, while Mya Health Credit in tie-up with Tata Capital offers medical loans of more than Rs 70,000 and up to Rs 5 lakh for procedures ranging from dental implant to bariatric surgery to hair transplant. 
    The Indian healthcare market is such that alternatives are always welcome. Muralidharan Nair, a partner in consulting firm Ernst &Young, said: “The average cost of a single hospitalization is more than 60% of the annual expenditure for 70% of the urban and rural population. Hence, such options 
are welcome.” 
    Cardiologist Dr Anil Kumar, who operated on Bhavridevi Vaishnav, said 25% of the patients he comes across couldn’t afford to raise money for life-saving surgery.

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