By Dr. Aashish Chaudhry,
As India fights Omicron and the world enters the third year of the pandemic, the government must provide more support to the healthcare industry. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised and acknowledged the vital role played by everyone involved in the health sector on numerous occasions. In the previous budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman set aside Rs. 2,34,846 crore for health care in FY22. The sudden emergence of Covid-19 prompted the Indian government to nearly double its healthcare budget year over year. As a result, the most prominent area of focus in Budget 2022 is expected to be healthcare.
Increasing healthcare expenditures
We anticipate that the government of India will increase its healthcare spending in this budget. The last Budget announced a 137% increase in healthcare spending to address some of the gaps. Healthcare accounted for about 1.8 percent of GDP in 2021. We should aim to raise it to at least 2.5 percent of GDP this year. In addition, the government should provide all incentives to the private sector to modernise healthcare facilities and invest in rural and remote areas. This will also result in job creation. For Make-in-India and startup-India programmes, public-private partnerships should be expanded. Incentives should be introduced to encourage academic-industry collaboration.
Preventive and wellness sector
Despite the focus on the Covid-19 pandemic at the moment, it is critical to increase the proportion of spending on preventive healthcare and wellness. Ayushman Bharat is undeniably a positive step toward achieving the goal of universal healthcare; however, more funding is required to ensure its long-term success. India is one of the world’s youngest countries, with around 50% of the population under the age of 25. The disease burden, on the other hand, is quite severe. Lifestyle-related illnesses, in particular, are wreaking havoc. We anticipate the government allocating more funds to the preventive health and wellness sector. Between 30 and 50% of cancers can be cured, and the disease burden can be reduced if preventive health screenings are performed and the disease is detected early. This will aid in reducing the burden of non-communicable and lifestyle diseases on healthcare infrastructure. As a result, the government should increase its support for disease awareness campaigns.
More rebates for health insurance
While the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) health insurance scheme has covered the lower economic classes, it is now time to extend coverage to the middle class in order to achieve universal health coverage. Rebates under section 80D should be increased to encourage people to invest in health insurance. The GST on health insurance should be repealed or rationalised as well.
More focus on telemedicine
Increased budget allocation for telemedicine, home-based healthcare, and the implementation of the national digital health mission will aid in the development of a stronger healthcare ecosystem. Telemedicine has the potential to expand healthcare access in rural and remote areas. Home-based healthcare will relieve pressure on already overburdened healthcare facilities. For India’s future population health growth, digital health and innovation should be encouraged through the budget.
Skill initiatives for the healthcare sector
Currently, India faces a severe shortage of healthcare personnel. Extra funds must be set aside to create enough manpower and to train teachers, nurses, paramedical staff, and other care providers. During the Covid-19 pandemic, education had to go entirely online. Healthcare and medical education that is hybrid (a mix of online and offline) should be encouraged.
When Covid 19 hit, the entire world was thrown into chaos. India, for its part, pooled resources and fought the virus valiantly. The pandemic demonstrated the need for a strong healthcare initiative in the country. This is only possible if the government prioritizes the healthcare budget not only this year but also in the years ahead.
(The author is Managing Director, Aakash Healthcare, Dwarka. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)