Healthcare sector upbeat as Budget 2015 gives a booster dose

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New Delhi | Published: February 28, 2015 5:26:28 PM

The healthcare industry has welcomed Budget proposals to increase tax exemption limits for health insurance cover and set up more AIIMS...

The healthcare industry has welcomed Budget proposals to increase tax exemption limits for health insurance cover and set up more AIIMS across India, saying such moves enable people’s access to better facilities.

“Increasing the tax exemption on health insurance cover will increase access to healthcare and the addition of more AIIMS will add to infrastructure in the sector.

“Increase in visas on arrival facility to 150 countries will give a boost to medical tourism in the country,” Apollo Hospitals Managing Director Suneeta Reddy told PTI.

Expressing similar views, industry body NATHEALTH Secretary General Anjan Bose said: “NATHEALTH welcomes government’s positive Budget announcements like more AIIMS and increase in tax exemption limits for health insurance premium.”

With a view to encourage savings and promote healthcare among individual tax payers, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said there would be “increase in the limit of deduction in respect of health insurance premium from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000.”

For senior citizens, the limit will be increased to Rs 30,000 from the existing Rs 20,000, while for very senior citizens of the age of 80 years or more, who are not covered by health insurance, deduction of Rs 30,000 towards expenditure incurred on their treatment will be allowed, he added.

Hailing the announcements, Manipal Health Enterprise CEO & MD Ajay Bakshi said: “We welcome the government’s move of increasing health insurance cover, this will enable people to seek out for quality healthcare which is a huge concern in our country.”

The plan to open AIIMS in five new states will begin to address the huge shortage of doctors and skilled staff, he said.

Bakshi, however, said: “The allocation of Rs 33,150 crore towards the healthcare sector comes as a disappointment as the government has not kept up with its promise of increasing expenditure on public health.”

Jaitley said the government will launch All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in J&K, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Assam in fiscal year 2015-16.

Deloitte in India Senior Director Charu Sehgal said that while the increase in deduction for health insurance premium and overall thrust on social security is welcome, “there was an absence of specific focus on the healthcare sector, which was disappointing.”

Specifically, the boost to medical manufacturing and education, expected under the “Make in India” and “skill development” focus, was missing.

“The Budget has made some enabling provisions for people to spend more on health insurance and that’s one of the welcome steps for the healthcare sector,” Radiant Life Care CMD Abhay Soi said.

Budget reactions:

Somesh Chandra, Chief Operations Officer & Chief Quality Officer, Max Bupa

“The Union Budget 2015-16 is a breakthrough budget and sets pace for fast growth economic trajectory through a robust financial framework.  We are delighted that the budget has fulfilled the wish list of the health insurance sector and delivered on our long standing demand, of increasing the tax deduction limit under section 80D.

Increasing the tax deduction in health insurance premium from Rs. 15,000 to Rs 25, 000  and up to Rs 30, 000 for senior citizens will improve  affordability, accessibility and awareness of health insurance. Health benefits for senior citizens will facilitate comprehensive health coverage for the elderly and aid tax rebate.

The accident insurance for rural and BPL population with annual premium of Rs. 12  showcases focus on affordable healthcare provisioning. This will boost health insurance penetration which is currently under 5% and mostly restricted to the urban areas, stimulate industry growth and encourage individuals to raise their health investment. We are confident that the budget will bring macroeconomic stability by conquering inflation, enable equal economic opportunity and lay a favorable roadmap for double digit economic growth.”

Miranjit Mukherjee, Chief Financial Officer, Tata AIG General Insurance

The Prime Minister has been encouraging financial inclusion and financial security to citizens of the country. This has found its place in the budget speech of the finance minister.

Increasing deduction of health insurance premium from Rs 15,000/- to Rs 25,000/- and Rs 30,000/- ( for senior citizens )

This move by the finance minister is to encourage citizens to take health insurance. This ensure benefits for all – the citizens are covered for health care costs through the insurance and gives a boost to the penetration of general insurance / health insurance business.

This year, the Government has taken upon itself to safeguard the interest of the underprivileged and the aged. For the underprivileged, it has promised to provide accidental cover of Rs. 2 lakh for just Rs. 12 per year and, for people between the age group 18-50, it promised to cover natural and accidental death risk of Rs. 2 lakhs for just Rs. 330 per year.

Adding to this, various pension schemes have been announced in order to assure income to the aging population. With these schemes, Mr. Jaitley has ensured that the Indian populace is not only adequately insured against unforeseen circumstances but also has enough corpus to enjoy life after retirement.

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