Rajasthan’s Right to Health Bill

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    • The recently concluded Budget session of the Rajasthan Assembly revived the debate around the Right to Health Bill.

    Key Features of the Bill

    • Right to Health: The Bill provides the right to health and access to healthcare for people in the state. This includes free health care services at any clinical establishment to residents of the state.
    • Obligations on State: To formulate and prescribe a public health model, 
      • Make appropriate provisions in the state budget, 
      • Make available healthcare services with due consideration for distance, geographical area, or population density, 
      • Lay down standards for quality and safety at all levels,
      • Set up a coordinating mechanism to ensure adequate supply of safe drinking water, sanitation, and nutritionally sufficient safe food, and
      • Institute measures to prevent, treat, and control epidemics and public health emergencies. 
    • Health Authorities will be set up at the state and district level. These bodies will formulate, implement, monitor, and develop mechanisms for quality healthcare and management of public health emergencies.
    • Grievance redressal: The Bill provides a mechanism for resolving complaints against denial of services and infringements of rights. A web portal and helpline centre will be established for filing complaints.  The concerned officer will have 24 hours to respond to the complaint.  

    Need for the Bill

    • In 1996, the Supreme Court held that the Right to life (Article 21) included the right to health within its fold, and also pointed out the obligation of state governments to provide health services.
    • In 2018, the National Commission on Human Rights drafted the Charter of Patient Rights to be implemented by state governments.
    • The Rajasthan Right to Health Bill, 2022, was introduced in the Rajasthan Assembly on September 22, 2022 which seeks to provide for the protection and fulfilment of equitable rights in health and well-being.  

    Does the Constitution guarantee a right to health? 

    • The Indian Constitution does not explicitly talk about a right to health. A “Right to health”, in theory, is derived from the Right to life and liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.  
    • Previously, courts have highlighted the State’s obligation to protect and promote the health of citizens, pointing to Constitutional provisions such as Article 38 (promoting the welfare of people) and Article 47 (which directs the government to meet the nutrition and health requirements of the population). 
    • In Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal (1996), the Supreme Court averred that it is the government’s responsibility to provide medical aid in the interest of bolstering public health.
    • As per a 2013 study, more than half of the world’s countries have a guaranteed and specified right to public health and medical care written into their constitutions.

    Key Issues 

    • Commercially Unviable for Private Establishment: A resident of the state has the right to avail free healthcare services from any clinical establishment including private establishments. There is no provision for reimbursing private health establishments for providing free healthcare services.  This may make these establishments commercially unviable and violate Article 19(1)(g) (Right to practice any profession) of the Constitution.
    • Privacy of the Patients: The District Health Authority is required to upload an action taken report on the web portal for complaints.  The Bill does not specify who will have access to the report on the web portal.  This may infringe on the patient’s right to privacy in medical cases.
    • Financial Burden on States: Implementing the right to health may increase the financial obligation of the state.  The Bill does not provide for such additional costs.
    • Institutional and health worker shortage: Ensuring free and quality healthcare at all establishments would require adequate human resources and infrastructure at all clinical establishments.  Data suggests that there may be a shortage of such resources in the state.  This may affect the effective implementation of the right to health.

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