By Dr. Shubhang Aggarwal,
Ahead of the Union Budget 2022, to be presented on February 1st by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the healthcare industry has urged for incentivising new technologies. The need for these robotic surgeries has increased after the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, with countries putting strict travel norms in force.
The pandemic has also brought to fore some new expectations from the industry. Healthcare has become a topmost priority since the outbreak of the pandemic, so there are high industry expectations from Budget 2022. Here are some areas where the sector would like the Government to focus on in the budget:
Increased budgetary allocation
Various stakeholders from the industry have demanded an increase in the healthcare budget allocation from 2.5% of the GDP to 3%. Last year’s budget had announced a 137 per cent increase in healthcare spending to address gaps that had emerged after the pandemic outbreak. Healthcare accounted for about 1.8 per cent of the GDP in 2021, but the industry would like it to increase further with this budget.
Rationalise and revise rates of Ayushman Bharat scheme
Civil hospital infrastructure is surely not enough to manage the scheme alone. To ensure the success of the scheme, and to enable more private hospitals to adopt the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, the industry expects rationalising or up-revising the rates. The Government has been planning to rationalise the rates of health benefit packages under the scheme and resolve issues with payments. This would encourage private hospitals to take part in Ayushman Bharat-Jan Arogya Yojana (JAY). The Government’s flagship public health insurance scheme has become a success, but the rates need to be rationalised so that more private hospitals adopt it, even if it is under their CSR activities.
Improving healthcare funding through subsidised loans
There is a need to increase the healthcare expenditure above 2.5% of the GDP and it could be done by improving healthcare funding with subsidised loans and incentivising CSR investment by making it a tax-deductible expense. In addition to this, the industry also expects the government extend the National Health Protection Scheme to all, especially migrant workers, in addition to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) population. With the rise in new variants or COVID-19 like Omicron, there is a high need to increase the healthcare expenditure substantially more than 2.5% of the GDP, as per the industry leaders.
Allocating land for new hospitals
There is need to allocate land for new hospitals, especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, according to the healthcare industry experts. The lack of sufficient hospitals beds and oxygen equipment was seen in the first and second waves of the deadly pandemic, as many COVID-19 patients died outside fully packed hospitals. This may be done with P.P.P model.
Need to incentivize use of innovative technologies
Another expectation from the Budget 2022 is incentivising new and innovative technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). For instance, the use of these technologies has increased in robotic orthopaedic surgeries. The whole sector has been leveraging technology in healthcare, so there will be high expectations for incentivising the use of such technologies and push for investment or funding.
(The author is Director, NHS Hospital, Jalandhar. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)