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Healthcare industry expects increasing budget allocation for National Mental Health Program in Union Budget 2022

The government needs to set up bodies that recognise community level organisations and NGOs working in the mental health space and provide funds to them so that they can continue their work.

NHPS, BPL, NMHP, counselling centers, health campaigns, psychologists, psychiatrists, community health physicians, mental health epidemiology
India’s mental healthcare system had several gaps even before the pandemic, and the situation has been exacerbated by the outbreak of COVID-19.

The Healthcare industry expects increasing budget allocation for National Mental Health Program (NMHP) and trauma centers in Primary Health Centers (PHCs) and Community Health Centers (CHCs) in Union Budget 2022-23 as trauma systems result in high financial costs.

According to Dr. Prakriti Poddar, Managing Trustee, Poddar Foundation, “India’s mental healthcare system had several gaps even before the pandemic, and the situation has been exacerbated by the outbreak of COVID-19. In the last budget i.e. the Union Budget 2021-22, the budget for the NMHP remained the same as last year –  Rs 40 crore. Proposing only Rs 40 crore for NMHP will leave the country unprepared and unable to deal with the requirements of the population, especially with the increasing mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“It is not just about increasing budgets, unless it is accompanied by engagement with grass-root level mental healthcare. The government must set up counselling centers, drive aggressive promotional health campaigns encouraging people to consult with psychologists and psychiatrists as well as invest in community health physicians and public health professionals to strengthen mental health epidemiology and engagement in preventive care. The government also needs to set up bodies that recognise community level organisations and NGOs working in the mental health space and provide funds to them so that they can continue their work,” Dr Poddar added.

Debajit Sensharma, Group CFO, Paras Healthcare said, “The government should look at increasing the healthcare expenditure above 2.5% of GDP and extend the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) to all migrant workers, in addition to the BPL population. The need of the hour is to improve healthcare funding with subsidized loans, incentivizing CSR investment by making it a tax-deductible expense, and allocating land for new hospitals.”

“Our country has the youngest workforce, but with dropping fertility rates and increasing mutations, there will be a huge spike in healthcare expenses over the next couple of decades. The incidence of lifestyle diseases is doubling every 10 years. Therefore, it is imperative for the government to get genome mapping done, which will assist in collecting the much-needed data to discover cures for complex conditions. In order to achieve the same, the government should promote public-private partnerships for genome mapping projects. Another important aspect for the government to consider is including all the life-saving drugs in the generic category and providing tax cuts on these drugs. However, providing adequate funding for the healthcare sector is needed at this hour, as it will have a substantial impact on the whole economy,” Debajit added.

“The healthcare sector should be the focus of this year’s budget. In the budget, more funds should be allocated to health expenditure. Incentives should be provided to the private sector so that they can establish Covid Care Centers. A Medical Innovation Fund should be set up to provide capital to companies promoting digital healthcare infrastructure. Many startups are utilizing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to provide detailed reports to patients regarding medical conditions. India is also a popular medical tourism destination due to the availability of skilled labour. Hence, the government should ease visa restrictions and create more green corridors in order to promote medical tourism.” said Dr. Ankit Gupta, Managing Director, Park Group of Hospitals.

“In the shadow of the pandemic and the ongoing battle against the virus, the budget should focus on the following areas: first, healthcare expenditure as a proportion of GDP must be raised to at least 2.5% if not more. Second, in view of the rising frequency of infectious diseases, the government must allocate enough resources for genetic and genome research, epidemiological studies besides hiking allocations for general healthcare-related R&D. Third, the budget must also provide for increased investment into infrastructure-building in terms of more critical care and ICU facilities and diagnostic labs along with ambulatory and home care. Fourth, smaller towns and the hinterland too should get sufficient public and private health infrastructure. Accordingly, the private sector should be encouraged with easy and inexpensive loan availability, tax exemptions and other financial and policy support through this budget. Fifth, similar encouragement must also be extended to the pharma and medical device sector.  Sixth, the budget should also earmark funds for ramping up infrastructure for medical education and training with an eye on elevating the quality and quantity of our healthcare manpower,” said Praveen Sikri, CEO of Ikris Pharma Network. 

“The Union Budget for 2022-23 can build on the momentum seen in the last budget and further increase the focus on healthcare, with emphasis on increasing affordability and access to life-saving medicines whilst also encouraging innovation in this vital sector. The Ayushman Bharat healthcare program should allow for greater inclusion of innovative medicines, particularly life-saving cancer therapies. In order to improve affordability for those in low and middle-income groups, tiered pricing can be institutionalized. Moreover, the government should reintroduce weighted tax deduction for in-house R&D and provide incentives for digitalization and innovation by pharmaceutical companies,” said Milind Patil, Executive Director & CFO, Pfizer India.

Dheeraj Jain, Founder, Crysta IVF, said, “While the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to improve healthcare delivery methods and infrastructure in recent months, as well as taken significant strides towards its aim of “universal healthcare for everyone,” a more holistic approach needs to be taken. The major focus of the Budget 2022 in regards to the healthcare sector should be increased healthcare expenditure to cater to – upgradation of medical infrastructure, shortage of medical manpower in India, improve healthcare funding with subsidized loans, training of skilled workforce.  The budget should also promise investment in the development of ICU facilities, diagnostic laboratories, and Fertility Treatments as these medical expertise areas have the potential to attract revenues and become an important element in India’s overall growth. Most importantly, depending upon the budget structure, insurance companies can play a vital role in covering fertility treatments under health insurance as only maternity costs are covered until now by the companies.”

Anurag Yadav, CEO, IHH Healthcare India said, “The last budget got a cut in health expenditure, which came as a surprise to all as we were still fighting the pandemic. Whereas, actually it was an indicator that the government perceives that the worst is behind us and we are now on the path of economic recovery. Thus this year’s budget allocation will show us how the government perceives the future position of the pandemic.”

“Additionally, since the pandemic has exposed so many fault lines in the healthcare system, there is a dire need for investment in good medical infrastructure. This will not only help us for any future pandemic but will also improve the state of healthcare in the country even more. The idea is to make healthcare available and affordable to all fellow citizens, which is only possible through the collective efforts of public-private partnerships,” he further added.

On budget expectations,Satish Kannan, Co-founder & CEO, MediBuddy said, “With the insistent surge in COVID-19 cases, it is extremely imperative that the budget focuses on strengthening the medical infrastructure uniformly. It should allocate some funds on developing the telemedicine industry to strategically bridge the disparity and to ensure that accessibility of quality healthcare services increases. Persistent problems that have been a hiccup for several years in the industry could be solved with the help of telemedicine, which holds the potential to solve them with ease. There should also be an emphasis on research and development in various medical fields to strengthen the current standing. Overall, we are expecting to see a rise in fund allocation of 2.5% to 3% of the GDP with regards to the healthcare sector.”

According to Meenakshi Singh, Co-founder & CEO, Synapsica, a leading AI-based radiology reporting solutions company in India says, “The last two years have been difficult due to the pandemic but it has created opportunities for advancement in the healthcare industry. Though the Indian government increased the healthcare budget by 137% in FY 2021-22, there are still significant structural gaps in the industry. A well-thought-out healthcare budget can help fill these gaps gradually and increase healthcare accessibility as well as affordability. Given the challenges that the pandemic has created, there’s an urgency to make healthcare products and services more affordable today. Government should reduce GST and the import duty on healthcare products and simplify FDI norms which will eventually help in making healthcare services and products more affordable for the masses. Also, emerging technologies like AI can help significantly bring down expenses and time for identifying traumas that need immediate attention and provide early intervention in chronic illnesses. Hence, the government should consider allocating a budget for including trauma centers equipped with machines powered by advanced technologies like AI (for example, AI-enabled PACS) in PHCs and CHCs.”

Vivek Tiwari, CEO, Medikabazaar said, “The pandemic exposed the deficiencies in our healthcare infrastructure and now it is imperative for the nation that the allocation to healthcare be increased and raised at least 2.5% of the GDP. This will help to ensure universal healthcare access across the country especially in Tier 2, Tier 3 centres and beyond. There is a need for enabling policies that will boost and promote public-private partnerships in ramping up healthcare infrastructure and medical equipment manufacturing. Policies that encourage local technology-driven innovations in the field of medical devices are the need of the hour. This will also encourage increasing adoption of healthtech to access healthcare.”

“India has the potential to be a centre for R&D and manufacture of high cost medical equipment and reduce the import dependency. A long term plan to incubate and support innovations across healthcare delivery infra building, patient care, supply chains and advanced equipment manufacturing will help India bridge the structural gaps, generate employment and deliver healthcare as per the growing needs of the vast population of India,” he further added.

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