Budget 2018: Two major initiatives under the “Ayushman Bharat’’ programme, for improvement in the primary healthcare infrastructure and increase in the insurance coverage for poor families, are a major positive for the sector. The launch of a government-funded healthcare plan of this scale, coupled with an increase in the limit of deduction for senior citizens’ health insurance under section 80D, has the potential to significantly increase the mandatory as well as discretionary healthcare spend in the country. Further, many patients may go for better class of facilities, boosting revenues of private sector players.
In order to enhance the accessibility of quality medical education and healthcare, the government plans to set up 24 new government medical colleges and hospitals and upgrade existing district hospitals in the country. This would address the shortage of medical talent and beds to some extent. The move would also guarantee that there is at least one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies and one government medical college in each state of the country.
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Jaitley also announced the creation of health and wellness centres, which would “bring healthcare closer to home”, allocating Rs 1,200 crore for 1.5 lakh health and wellness centers which would provide essential drugs and diagnostic services free of cost. The move for universal healthcare, comprehensive healthcare centres and new medical colleges would help bridge the rural-urban divide.
The Budget also announced an allocation of Rs 600 crores to provide nutritional support for patients with tuberculosis.