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6 months ago
Union Budget 2018: What experts have to say about healthcare in India?

The Union budget of 2018 is out. And here is what experts related to healthcare industry have to say about the healthcare budget the year.

Under the current ecosystem where more than 70% of medical devices have to be imported from abroad, a balanced approach to reduce the cost to the patient is trading margin rationalization for distributors, gradation in pricing thereby allowing a higher price bracket for superior medical devices and lower customs duty. These measures will reduce the cost to a patient without dis-incentivizing technical innovation by medical device manufacturers,” Mr Pavan Choudary, Chairman & DG — Medical Technology Association of India(MTaI).

“My heartiest congratulations to this government for investing in creating a swasth bharat by launching the Ayushman Bharat programme. Such ambitious out of the box thinking was a burning need of the hour and the government has not disappointed. The initiative to cover 10 crore families with 5 lakh per family/per year WITH INSURANCE COVER FOR SECONDARY AND TERTIARY HEALTHCARE will be a gamechanger,” says Dr Prathap Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals. 

“The Union Budget 2018 has taken a huge step in making healthcare affordable and accessible by launching the world’s largest healthcare scheme. It is indeed heartening that 40% of India’s population will be covered under an insurance scheme. The payor problem demanded urgent attention and the government has paid heed. If the Flagship National Health Protection Scheme to cover 10 Cr poor and vulnerable families with up to 5 Lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation is properly implemented and monitored we would have taken an important step in creating a Swasth Bharat. Effectively this initiative which amounts t USD 800 billion dollars tops even the US’ Medicaid programme which amounts to USD 550 billion,” explains Suneeta Reddy, MD, Apollo Hospitals.

Ms Ameera Shah, Promoter and Managing Director, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd says “Overall, this has been a pro-people and a pro-poor budget. For the first time, Universal Health Care has got the impetus it needs. I am quite happy with the government’s plan to introduce 24 new medical colleges. That is the only way to address the glaring lack of talent in the industry. The 1.5 lakh centres which will provide free essential drugs and diagnosis is a welcome move and a step towards boosting the Government’s National Health Policy. The flagship national healthcare protection scheme which will cover 10 crore, underprivileged families, is a highly commendable initiative. Through the budget, the government has definitely shown its interest in making healthcare more accessible and affordable through the Ayushman Bharat programme.

Another highlight of the budget has been the focus on fighting the ever-growing hazards of pollution from crop burning, promotion of gas connection in houses using wood fire for cooking, among others. By not just talking about healthcare, but its indicators as well, the government is definitely on the right track towards improving the sector across the country. We truly hope that going forward, the government also has plans for utilisation management, financial monitoring, audit mechanisms and accountability”.

Mr Naresh Jain, CEO, Ziqitza Healthcare Ltd says “We applaud the announcements made by the Government in the Union Budget 2018 which has indeed addressed a lot of issues that will help the economy to prosper. It aims at creating the largest healthcare blanket for the biggest democracy in the world. The Government’s initiative of setting up 1.5 lakh health facilities across the country will help bring healthcare closer to homes of the people and will enable them to receive medical help within the golden hour hence improving the chances of survival.

Granting 50 crore beneficiaries and 10 crore families, 5 lakh rupees per year cover secondary and tertiary hospital expenses is a breakthrough move and the world’s largest government-funded healthcare program. This will allow the poor to access world-class healthcare facilities which were not affordable or available earlier. Also, the announcement of setting up one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies is great as this will help in training the emergency medical technicians which will, in turn, revolutionize the quality of care of the emergency medical response services in the country.”

“The government has reiterated its commitment to ‘Universal Healthcare’ and has announced flagship schemes to provide better healthcare to people at bottom of the pyramid — National Health Policy and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. These schemes will expand the reach of basic healthcare facilities in the country. While access to basic healthcare is an important determinant of Universal Healthcare, another critical factor is quality of healthcare. The latter requires access to advance healthcare technology for best health management of patients. The government should have looked at incentivising import of advanced medical devices into the country by bringing down the customs duty.

There is also a need to undo the un-nuanced price control imposed by NPPA as the move is leading to unintended consequences on the healthcare ecosystem without any significant reduction in the cost of the patient. The current price control regime has also lead to a drastic fall in foreign direct investment in healthcare sector from $417 million in April-September 2017 against $173 million in the same period in 2016, a reduction of 59%.

Mr Arindam Haldar, CEO, SRL Diagnostics says “I congratulate the government for focusing on common man of India in this budget by announcing various schemes across sectors. The announcement of universal health insurance at Rs 5 lakh medical cover per year for 10 crore(s) poor families across the country, is an appreciable step. Also, the allocation of Rs 1,200 crore(s) for health and wellness centres clearly indicates that health sector has received utmost priority in this budget. It would be a welcome step if out-patient diagnostics costs/coverage is covered in this limit.  The absence of coverage for outpatient care and pre-existing diseases is an impediment to a comprehensive and affordable health insurance cover. Also, specific focus on the diagnostics sector would have been of great benefit to supplement primary healthcare machinery. Nevertheless, we welcome the various health initiatives announced by the government in which limelight has been shed on the alarming rise of non-communicable and communicable diseases in India.”

Image Source: Shutterstock

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