Union Budget 2021 Expectations for Health: Being present in the wake of the pandemic, our expectations from the Budget 2021 centre around the allocation of higher spending towards healthcare.
Union Budget 2021-22 Expectations for Health: Coronavirus pandemic has underlined the importance of healthcare in the world and especially in India. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has time to time acknowledged and lauded the pivotal role played by everyone associated with the health sector, experts are hoping that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will focus more on this in the upcoming Budget 2021.
1. Larger funds towards preventive health, and wellness segment: “Being present in the wake of the pandemic, our expectations from the Budget 2021 centre around allocation of higher spending towards healthcare. Ayushman Bharat is no doubt a highly positive step towards attaining the objective of universal healthcare, however, more budgets need to be apportioned for its continued success. India is one of the youngest nations with over 60 pre cent the population under the age of 35 years. However, the disease burden is quite acute. Especially the lifestyle-induced illnesses are taking a heavy toll. We would expect the Government to apportion larger funds towards the preventive health and wellness segment. Over 60 per cent of the cancers can be cured and disease burden brought down if preventive health check ups are undertaken and the disease is detected early. Institutes such as RGCIRC are actively pursuing this with a dedicated unit on preventive oncology. India woefully lacks in hospital beds required for its populace. Higher tax incentives to the private sector towards modernizing medical facilities will go a long way in ensuring better healthcare, more investments and thereby generate more employment,” said D.S. Negi IAS (Retd.) CEO, Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Centre (RGCIRC).
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2. Introduction of National Retail Policy: “Leaving behind all the negativity and apprehensions, everyone is starting fresh and looking up to the Budget 2021 with much optimism. The industry is eagerly waiting for the government to introduce the National Retail Policy and streamline the compliance mechanism to facilitate business expansion. Also, we are expecting an increase in the FDI inflow which would help organized players to expand presence as well as have access to the best manufacturing practices and stimulate the Make in India initiative. The rising input cost needs a strong consideration in this budget so that the end consumer doesn’t have to face the dual setback of Covid-led financial strain and price rise,” Ravi Saxena, MD Wonderchef, said.
3. Bigger focus on public spending on healthcare: “The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the entire world the importance of having a strong healthcare sector. Knowing the immense contribution that the sector has provided all through 2020, it is possible that the long-term trend of low government spending on healthcare may show a reversal in the 2021 Union budget. To begin with, one of the primary expectations of this year’s Budget is that there should be a bigger focus on public spending on healthcare. India’s total healthcare spending as per OECD, is way lower than that of other countries. The pandemic has urgently brought to the fore the need for good public hospitals. We need more public-private partnerships, and further investments to strengthen indigenous manufacturing of medical devices, personal protective equipment (PPE) and raw material for drugs,” Dr. Rohinton Dastur, Director Medical-Bhatia Hospital, Mumbai said.
It is also more important than ever now to provide greater investment for preparedness against other health emergencies that may arise in the future, by buttressing diagnostic testing capacities and contact tracing mechanisms. We need more collaborative effort between private sector players and members of academia, scientific experts, and governments to strengthen R&D in drug discovery. Necessary incentives should be brought in to develop such partnerships and make them meaningful for the stakeholders, Dr. Dastur said.
4. GST Benefits for healthcare services: Meanwhile, the private healthcare sector has suffered major losses along with all other sectors during this turbulent period and requisite efforts are a must for its revival. On the GST front, the government can consider making healthcare more affordable by taking an immediate step of making ‘zero rating’ of GST for healthcare services. This will offer two-pronged benefits — keeping the credit chain intact and ensuring that tax is not added to the cost of healthcare services. As the private, as well as public health sector, have worked relentlessly through the pandemic, it is only fair to hope that Budget 2021 will come with some positive news that provides a major boost to the healthcare sector, Dr. Dastur said.
5. Union Budget 2021 must recognize growing mental health problem: Our expectation from Union Budget 2021 is to recognize the growing mental health problem in India and provide more budget for facilitating counselling across India including the government schools. In FY2019, the budget allocated for the National Mental Health Program (NMHP) was brought down to Rs 40 crore from Rs 50 crore in FY18 while the actual funds spent were only Rs 5 Crore each year. We expect the government to change its attitude towards mental health with an increase in allocation for starting awareness campaigns about mental health across schools, colleges, armed forces, banks, and government offices with the objective of providing primary mental health treatment online in local language in participation with mental health startups. The government should also spend on sanctioning more seats for preparing Psychologists and Psychiatrists. The budget for Mental Health in India should at least be increased to Rs 5000 Crore or at least 5 per cent of India’s healthcare budget as the approximate cost of implementing the Mental Healthcare Act is around Rs 95000 Crore and the current budget is nowhere close to the actual requirement as assessed by Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Vivek Sagar, Founder and CEO, HopeQure.com said.