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Obama's 'cheap health care' remark upsets India

Last updated on: April 20, 2011 21:54 IST

'Americans don't need India's cheap health care'

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In remarks that have sparked outrage in India, United States President Barack Obama has targeted "cheap health care" in countries like India and Mexico arguing that Americans should avail of "high quality" treatment available in the US.

"My preference would be that you don't have to travel to Mexico or India to get cheap health care. I'd like you to be able to get it right here in the United States of America that is high quality," Obama said amidst applause at a community college in Virginia.

Obama was responding to a question from the audience on increasing health care cost in the US. Earlier, Obama's remarks on American companies outsourcing jobs to Indian firms had stirred a controversy in India.

"Before we went on the path of you can go somewhere else to get your health care, let's work to see if we can reduce the costs of health care here in the United States of America. That's going to make a big difference," he said.

"And Medicare is a good place to start because Medicare is such a big purchaser that if we can start changing how the health care system works inside of Medicare, then the entire system changes. All the doctors, all the hospitals, they will all adapt to these best practices," Obama said.

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Image: US President Barack Obama

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"One of the things that we want to do as part of our health care reform package is let's start doing a better job of negotiating better prices for prescription drugs here in the United States so that you don't feel like you're getting cheated because you're paying 30 per cent more or 20 per cent more than prescription drugs in Canada or Mexico," he said.

Re-importation, he said, is a short-term solution that a lot of seniors are resorting to.

"But why should drugs that are invented here in the United States end up being more expensive than another country," he asked.

"Well, the reason is, is because drug companies can get away with it here and they can't get away with it there, and we should change some of those systems to make it cheaper for everybody here. But that's going to make a huge difference in terms of reducing our deficit," he noted.

 


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Obama's 'cheap health care' remark upsets India

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Reacting sharply, the Indian government and the medical fraternity have slammed Obama for the remarks.

In a terse reaction, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said India does not provide "cheap" but "affordable" healthcare without compromising on quality while opposition Bharatiya Janata Party accused the US of resorting to protectionism.

Eminent cardio-vascular surgeon Naresh Trehan also took objection to Obama's statement saying the quality of institutions in India was as good r better than the best in the US.

Azad said, "Affordable healthcare does not mean that our medicine is inferior to any super powers. I would like to say our medicines are indigenous, they are superior, superiority does not come by escalating costs."

He said there are countries which are escalating the cost of medicine, when India is selling the same medicine at one-tenth of the price they were selling.



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He said most of the countries appreciate the efforts being made by India and the drugs and pharmaceuticals provided by the government at affordable price is being appreciated all across the world.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said Obama's remarks smacked of protectionism. 

"The Indian medical industry has become very competitive internationally. They are providing international class service to patients who come from any part of the world at affordable price," she said.

Trehan said if Obama can create an affordable system for their own people in their country it was "perfectly fine".

"The response to his statement is that the quality of institutions in India is as good as or better than best in the US. It is not that people are coming to India because treatment is cheap in India but for the higher quality at an affordable cost," he said.

 


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