India Union Budget 2019: Ayushman Bharat scheme is one of the most celebrated healthcare initiatives of the government, which is meant to provide Rs 5 lakh insurance cover to 10 crore families.
Ayushman Bharat scheme is one of the most celebrated healthcare initiatives of the government, which is meant to provide Rs 5 lakh insurance cover to 10 crore families. An initial budget allocation of just Rs 2000 crore for the landmark scheme raised many eyebrows, however, the government soon clarified its seriousness towards the scheme by releasing another Rs 1500 crore. Indian healthcare policy has always been questioned due to low allocation of budget. 2017-18 saw a positive jump of 25% in healthcare budget before going down to 5% for the year 2018-2019. As per financial pundits, Indian healthcare budget has to maintain a steady growth of 20% year on year if the government wants to fulfil its promise of healthcare spend of 2.25% of GDP by 2025. Entry of interim finance minister just before the budget has forced the healthcare sector players at the edge of their seats who have great expectations from the budget. This budget will shape the future of Ayushman Bharat and Indian Healthcare system.
Apart from budget deficiencies, the Indian healthcare system is also suffering from the deficiencies of infrastructure and doctors. Limited doctors mean limited facilities, which are insufficient to serve our population. The already insufficient infrastructure appears to be more inefficient with the increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancer, etc. Non-communicable diseases require long-term care and management. In some patients, long-term rehabilitation or artificial life-support may be required, which are economically draining for the patients. When quality of care decreases at home, it often results in re-admission to the hospitals applying extra burden to already ailing infrastructure. There was a need for something new when healthcare at home, a proven model in the western world, entered India. Technologies like portable assessment devices, wearable devices, remote monitors, and high-definition video conferencing have made it possible to deliver 70% of hospital services at home with at par quality and home healthcare companies are utilizing it completely to deliver quality care at home, which has eased some pressure from the healthcare infrastructure and changed the dynamics of chronic disease managment.
Healthcare at home is the cost-effective mobile revolution in the healthcare sector. It has made users life easy and convenient and at the same time created a disruption in the industry. The cost-effectiveness of the home healthcare can be understood by the fact that home ICU sets costs around 50% less in comparison to the hospital ICUs. This is the future of the Indian healthcare system and would play a huge role in making the healthcare accessible and affordable, which are also the key objectives of Ayushman Bharat scheme. The home healthcare industry, which is still in the infantile stage and trying to find its foothold in India, has a lot of expectations from the coming budget. Entry to the Ayushman Bharat, where government doctors motivate patients to avail home healthcare services, would provide the much-needed impetus to the industry. The government should provide an enabling environment for the sector to grow. Modi government has followed the mantra of Make in India and ease of doing business. Special schemes or subsidies for the healthcare industry, home healthcare in particular, are the need of the hour.
The Ayushman Bharat scheme can be availed through designated public and private sector hospitals, which mean that the economically weaker section in no-way has access to the convenient and cost-effective home healthcare facilities. Home healthcare also remains out of the reach of the middle class who are mostly dependent on CGHS, ECHS, and private insurance policies for their healthcare. Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority and Government need to encourage the insurance players to include home healthcare in their policies’ ambit. Insurance players also need to understand that they have to spend less money for the same care at home if their client chose for home healthcare. Easily accessible and affordable home healthcare would not only be the victory of the evolving healthcare system but it will be the victory of end users who dream to have access to healthcare of Western world standards.
Vivek Srivastava is CEO, HealthCare atHome