The increase in FY20 revised estimates came on the back of government’s flagship health insurance scheme. And, budget figures show that the Centre only budgeted a 6% increase in health-spending for this fiscal.
While India doesn’t fare any better than comparator economies as far as public health spends are concerned, the Covid-19 spread has revealed exactly how serious the deficiencies in India’s public spending are. Although it is visible from the state of primary healthcare centres—data shows that in rural areas, there is only one functioning Primary Healthcare Centre for every 64,800 people and one PHC doctor for every 38,000 people—it is also evident from India’s yearly allocations to health, which registered only a 2.9% increase in FY19 as compared to FY18. The increase in FY20 revised estimates came on the back of government’s flagship health insurance scheme. And, budget figures show that the Centre only budgeted a 6% increase in health-spending for this fiscal. States have done no better, SBI research shows that, on average, 19 states were expecting an 11.6% increase in budgeted spends for FY21, while this increase was 19.2% for FY20.
Moreover, some states were even looking at a single-digit increase. Bihar, which is struggling with its health infrastructure, is expected to increase its health budget by a meagre 2.8%. In the global health security index, which measures preparedness for a pandemic, India ranks quite low. While the global average was 40.2, India’s score was just 46.5. When the government comes out of this crisis, it will need to relook its health spends.