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Budget 2020: Great initiatives like Ayushman Bharat so far! Here’s why more can be done for healthcare

Union Budget 2020 India: Our infrastructure needs an extensive ramp up not in terms of hospitals beds but also in terms of Doctors as we are still below the WHO’s recommended 1:1000 Doctor-patient ratio.

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Budget 2020 India: The awareness about preventive healthcare and encouraging the habit of routine screening and monitoring could really reduce the burden from the entire ecosystem.

By Deepak Sahni

Budget 2020-21: The new decade could really turn out to be a transformational change in the Indian healthcare ecosystem and starting point could be this budget. While everyone talks about India’s spending on healthcare still standing at 1% and the government declaration of taking it to 2.5% by 2025, this number itself needs a reconsideration.

Need to tackle non-communicable diseases

The growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases is on the rise and the ratio of hospital beds to the number of patients is low, the average age of the population is increasing and we do not account for any unforeseen epidemic diseases breaking out in future. To be future-ready one should prepare for 4% of GDP as expected spending in the next decade.

Ramp up of hospital infrastructure and doctors

Our infrastructure needs an extensive ramp up not in terms of hospitals beds but also in terms of Doctors as we are still below the WHO’s recommended 1:1000 Doctor-patient ratio. The government will hopefully give healthcare its due importance in this budget while some of the great initiatives in the past are more than welcomed be it the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PMJAY) or revolutionary schemes like Ayushman Bharat including initiatives like Digital Healthcare or FIT India are the steps in the right direction.

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Budget 2020: Expectations from preventive and home healthcare segment

One of the key areas to focus would be preventive and home healthcare segment.

The awareness about preventive healthcare and encouraging the habit of routine screening and monitoring could really reduce the burden from the entire ecosystem.

Learning from the developed countries, the cost, infrastructure and dependency on government facilities will always have a multi-fold gap in demand and supply of such facilities.

Under such circumstances, home healthcare facilities will help manage infrastructure demand, Preventive approach to healthcare will help reduce cost and overall burden.

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Increase exemption limit of preventive health check-ups

A key step could be to increase the exemption limit of preventive health checkups to Rs 25000 from the currently available limit of rs 5000 under section 80(D).

This would not only help more and more people to get screened but the taxpayer of the family could get all dependents in the family screened and avoid sudden medical expenses.

Raising the deduction limits for the medical insurance premium will promote the masses to reach out for healthcare services due to the reduced out of pocket expenses.

Making healthcare more affordable

While the healthcare services in the country is already exempted from GST but almost all the other service or products consumed by the providers are taxed thereby adding to the cost, a provision to claim refund or to consume the service under “Zero rated” slab would help to bring the cost down. This way, healthcare services could be made affordable.

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India’s healthcare industry was valued at $74 billion in 2011 and is expected to reach $280 billion by 2020. While the healthcare industry is set to increase by another $100 billion by 2022, owing to the rise of lifestyle-based ailments and non-communicable diseases, it is still unheard of in the rural parts of India.

Special attention should be paid to enhancing the quality of services available in healthcare facilities situated in rural areas. The government must emphasize spending on healthcare and revamping the entire infrastructure by way of partnerships with private players under PPP model.

Financial incentive for Fit India Movement

The government’s Fit India Movement is one of the initiatives in the right direction to increase awareness about fitness and health and encouraging youths to stay fit and participate in sports will really go a long way.

A further concrete step in this direction might be to incentivise fitness by way for claiming rebate in income tax for amount spent on Gym, Sports and other fitness subscriptions. Further, a financial incentive such as this could induce individuals to focus wellness.

The columnist is the CEO and founder of Healthians. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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