By Vikas Rastogi
In the 2022 Budget, the government allocated a substantial amount of funds of Rs.86,200 crores in centrally sponsored public health schemes for sustainable healthcare infrastructure and to handle unforeseen healthcare needs of the future. The Pradhan Mantri Swasth Yojana, Ayushman Bharat, Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, and National Health Mission are amongst some of the healthcare programs that were implemented. In retrospect, the good intention of assisting the general population to access healthcare services did not really prove advantageous to the end-users. As such, the Indian healthcare system largely depends on private hospital networks.
A reassessment and re-evaluation of the various government schemes under healthcare are in order if the large base of end-consumers and the general populace is to be benefited. A probable solution could be through direct funding by the government to private hospitals, which also offer these schemes. This would help in augmenting the entire healthcare system and services.
The government could consider adopting a similar framework as the 2018 Budget for healthcare parameters by concentrating on the infrastructure, healthcare insurance, medical supplies and equipment, telemedicine, and medical tourism sectors of the healthcare industry. Infrastructure at hospitals, in my opinion, requires a lot of attention. During the pandemic, hospitals offered the finest treatment that was required. However, the prevailing situation brought to light the poor facilities – a glaring shortage of beds and treatment, especially in non-metro cities. Therefore, it is imperative that the government works towards improving the infrastructure, particularly in non-metro cities, so that people can access healthcare when they need it. Additionally, this will improve healthcare services globally.
My expectation from the government, in the Budget 2023 would be the amendment of the healthcare schemes, implementation of direct PPPs, lowering of the corporate tax rate overall for hospitals, or altering of indirect taxes, especially the GST system. Instead of making healthcare a GST-exempt category that qualifies for the input tax credit, they could consider making it a zero-tax category. This would have a significant impact on expanding the infrastructure and improving the use of our resources. Additionally, the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) package pricing was established in 2014 and has not been updated since.
The government should consider raising the pricing for these schemes in order to support the businesses of all healthcare providers given the rising costs associated with providing high-quality healthcare services. It would considerably ease the financial restrictions that private hospitals experience. Incentives or subsidies to advance the technical components of healthcare would be highly beneficial in improving our service to patients and the healthcare sector as a whole. Additionally, the turnaround time for scheme payouts can also be improvised.
(Vikas Rastogi, Group CFO, CARE Hospitals Group. The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)