An increase in budgetary allocation for the country's healthcare sector could help people cut their out-of-pocket expenditure, former Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Atiur Rahman suggested on Thursday.
Presenting a keynote paper at a virtual discussion, he said there is also scope to reduce some ancillary costs in different ministries and increase allocation for the healthcare sector.
"An analysis revealed that raising allocation for some sub-sectors like medical and surgical supply along with salary and allowance could help the service recipients reduce their out-of-pocket expenditure from 68 to 51 per cent," said Dr Rahman.
Bangladesh could also mobilise finance for the health sector from foreign development partners, added Dr Rahman.
He placed the suggestions at a virtual discussion jointly organised by Bangladesh Health Watch, BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University and UnnayanShamannay.
Former Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu joined the event as the chief guest while former BSMMU Vice Chancellor Dr Pran Gopal Datta and Lutfun Nesa Khan MP were present as special guests.
Dr Atiur Rahman also said UnnayanShamannay suggested raising the budgetary allocation for healthcare sector to seven per cent of the total budget proposed from existing 5.4 per cent.
Proper implementation of the budget is also important alongside increasing the allocation said Mr Rahman, who is also executive chairperson of UnnayanShamannay.
Budgetary allocation for health, education and social safety nets is an investment for the people, which could bring benefits for long time, observed Mr Rahman.
"Often many families slide down below the poverty line, when they face a major crisis with a family member falling sick," he said.
Budgetary allocation for the healthcare sector was proposed to be increased to Tk368.63 billion for the upcoming financial year (FY) 2022-23 from Tk 322.74 billion in the revised budget for the FY 2021-22.
The allocation remains static at 5.4 per cent of the total proposed budget for the next fiscal as for the outgoing one.
In his speech, Hasanul Huq Inu laid emphasis on developing a five-year plan for the health sector giving the highest priority to ensuring universal primary healthcare and then allocating the budget in line with that plan.
Dr Pran Gopal Datta said health insurance schemes are important to ensure universal access to quality and affordable healthcare for all.
The government should start piloting health insurance schemes as soon as possible, said Mr Dutta who is also an MP.
Public health expert Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain laid stress on taking initiative to ensure universal health coverage in the country by 2032.
He also said proper implementation of the related plans and schemes is also important for the health sector.