Union Budget 2022 focuses on digital health ecosystem but ignores tax benefits for diagnostics industry: Experts

The diagnostic equipment manufacturing industry continues to bear a heavy tax burden. There is no reduction in customs, excise duty and tax exemptions on imports.

digital, mental health, tax benefits, diagnostics, Union Budget 2022, GST, ITC
The increase in allocation for National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) from Rs 30 crore last year to Rs 200 crore is a positive development for the Indian healthcare ecosystem.

Experts have pinpointed that Union Budget 2022 has focused on digital health ecosystem but ignored tax benefits for diagnostics industry.

The diagnostics industry has been ignored in the new budget. There could have been focus on preventive healthcare diagnostics, which has become a necessity in the wake of the third wave, experts suggested.

Arjun Ananth, CEO Medall Healthcare Pvt Ltd explained, “The Union Budget 2022 seems to have its sights set on the long term with a major push towards digital healthcare ecosystem but no major announcements on tax breaks that would have worked as an instant relief to the diagnostics and healthcare sector. The much-anticipated goods and services tax (GST) streamlining and the introduction of input tax credit (ITC), if implemented, would’ve introduced the liquidity that the industry was hoping for.”

According to Dr. Angeli Misra, Founder & Director, Lifeline Laboratory, “The diagnostic equipment manufacturing industry continues to bear a heavy tax burden. There is no reduction in customs, excise duty and tax exemptions on imports for an industry that is heavily dependent on imports.”

“The launch of an open platform for a National Digital Health Ecosystem, a focus on building domestic capacities by encouraging public-private partnership, and the promotion of R&D to provide universal access to health facilities for all, is however, a welcome move,” she added.

Anand K, CEO, SRL Diagnostics said, “As per the recent economic survey results, we have seen an increase in healthcare expenditure for 2020-2021, largely driven by vaccinations. We remain positive that the government and health ministry will continue to increase expenditures in the coming years, especially pertaining to investments in primary healthcare infrastructure.”

“Universal healthcare can only be achieved when all citizens have timely access to good quality healthcare. This can only happen when healthcare expenditure is considerably increased and when there is more collaboration between the government, the private institutions, and the academia to work together and build solutions,” he added.

S Sridhar, President, OPPI and Managing Director, Pfizer Ltd on the budget announcement said, “There is a need to consider the introduction of an ‘RLI Scheme’ – Research-Linked Incentive Scheme, which will accelerate an atmanirbhar ecosystem for end-to-end development of pharmaceuticals – from bulk drugs to finished formulations.”

“The government could also explore a 200% weighted deduction and a separate allocation for R&D in biopharmaceuticals for companies making investments to undertake research for new drugs, chemical entities and/or new biological entities to combat outbreaks. This would further augment foreign investments in R&D,” he added.

“Today, the booming biotech innovation across the globe along with the accelerated adoption of digital technologies has redefined the contours of healthcare management.  To build and grow the research-driven biopharmaceutical industry in India, we continue to seek an enabling, supportive regulatory and policy framework that encourages and promotes research in order to bring positive patient outcomes,” according to Sanjiv Navangul, Managing Director & CEO, Bharat Serums and Vaccines Ltd. (BSV).

“Further the Union Budget 2022 outlines ‘Genomics and Pharmaceuticals’ as the sunrise opportunities eligible for a supportive framework to build domestic capacities and promote research and development,” Navangul added. 

Talking about focus on digitization, Samir Mehta, Chairman, Torrent Group, “The initiative of rolling out an open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem consisting of digital registries of health providers and health facilities is a positive step towards prioritizing the role of digitization in the overall healthcare ecosystem.”

Shabnum Khan, Founder, 750AD Healthcare Pvt. Ltd added, “As per Nirmala Sitaraman in the budget declaration for 2022, India’s growth is estimated to be at 9.27 percent. With high vaccination rate, we are now in a condition to face the challenges that come our way especially with the Omicron wave on the rise. No declarations, however, have been made on data security.”

Pranav Bajaj Co-founder, Medulance, “The new initiatives announced by the Finance Minister will help India recover from the damages to the healthcare infrastructure caused by the pandemic and strengthen it further. These initiatives, especially the open platform for the National Digital Health Ecosystem will also help strengthen the healthcare sector. The Tax breaks for setting up hospitals in tier 2 and tier 3 cities is highly appreciated. This will encourage boom in quality healthcare providers in these cities, along with the proposal for the PM Gati Shakti Master Plan will help connect tier 2 and tier 3 cities. This will ensure that the healthcare services are accessible to all regions equally.”

“The announcement of the launch of a National Tele-Mental Health Program is a welcome move by the government. For an effective mental health infrastructure, intersectoral linkages must be strengthened and the Union Budget 2022-23 acknowledges this. However, there’s more that needs to be done. The current direct allocations for mental health are grossly insufficient, considering that 14 percent of India’s population lives with some form of mental illness. There exists a treatment gap of 72% to 92,” suggested Prakriti Poddar, Global Head of Mental Health & Wellbeing, RoundGlass.

Dr. Pankaj Jethwani, Executive Vice President at W Health Ventures said, “The increase in allocation for National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) from Rs 30 crore last year to Rs 200 crore is a positive development for the Indian healthcare ecosystem. From allowing citizens in the remotest village to access quality healthcare digitally to enabling health care records management, NDHM holds innumerable possibilities.”

Vani Manja, Country Managing Director at Boehringer Ingelheim India said, “The proposal to increase contribution towards the National Health Mission (NHM) by Rs 2,853 crores reflects continued emphasis on access to quality healthcare. While the emphasis on digital investments is encouraging, an integral component would also need to include healthcare infrastructure and medical skill building at all levels.”

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