Budget 2019: Health industry gives mixed reactions

Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal, on Friday, presented NDA government’s last Budget in Lok Sabha.

The healthcare industry had been expecting a big boost in the Budget. However, they  were left in the lurch, leaving little for the industry to boast about.

As says Varun Gera, Founder & CEO, HealthAssure, “It seems like 2019 was a lost year in our nation’s progress for better healthcare for its citizens and we will have to wait for another year to hopefully resume the journey.”

The industry expected that the government will bring down the corporate tax to 25  per cent and resume 200 per cent weighted deduction on R&D. However, they didn’t  find mention in the Budget.

Abhishek Shah, Founder & CEO, Wellthy Therapeutics

“… I see a huge opportunity to spread the vision of digital India (discussed in the Budget) to the healthcare sector. Mobile health technologies have a significant role to play in delivering more robust, data-centric, and interventions for chronic disease management. As data costs decrease, more people have access to smartphones.”

“Last year’s Budget was the landmark year setting a vision on healthcare. The expectation from this year’s Budget was more on allocations and implementation of the grand dream, which was sold. Unfortunately, this year’s Budget has relegated that vision to back seat and it’s come to be a populist pre-election Budget. The increase in healthcare allocation is only 16 per cent over last year, which is in no way planning to achieve the grand health insurance of Rs 5 lakh for 500 million citizens,” Varun said.

There were demands of increased Budget allocation for healthcare infrastructure and  human resources in sync with rising disease burden.

However, there was nothing big except Ayushman Bharat, that healthcare industry could be provided by the government.

In his Budget speech on Friday, Minister of Finance Piyush Goyal said, “We launched the world’s largest healthcare programme, Ayushman Bharat, to provide medical treatment to nearly 50 crore people. Already close to 10 lakh patients have benefited for medical treatment, which would have cost them Rs 3,000 crore through free treatment made available under the scheme.”

Varun Gera, Founder & CEO, HealthAssure

“It seems like 2019 was a lost year in our nation’s progress for better healthcare  for its citizens and we will have to wait for another year to hopefully resume the journey.”

Goyal said, “Lakhs of poor and middle class people are also benefiting from reduction in the prices of essential medicines, cardiac stents and knee implants, and availability of medicines at affordable prices through Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras.

Abhishek Shah, Founder & CEO, Wellthy Therapeutics said, “The interim Budget highlights the government’s preliminary success in rolling out an ambitious pan-India health insurance scheme, the additional benefits posed by schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras in making essential medications and treatments available at affordable prices. While these are certainly steps in the right direction, it would have been great to see the government’s focus plans to reduce chronic and noncommunicable diseases in the current climate with India being touted as the diabetes capital of the world.”

The minister further said, “There are 21 AIIMS operating or being established in the country presently. 14 of these 21 AIIMS have been announced since 2014. I am happy to announce setting up of new the 22nd AIIMS in Haryana.”

The government announced a total Budget for Department of Health and Family Welfare  for 2019-20 at Rs 63,538.12 crore, a 13 per cent increase compared to the current  financial year.

The minister said, “A healthy India is the Ninth Dimension of our Vision. We will be aiming at healthy society with an environment of health assurance and the support of necessary health infrastructure. Our government has rolled out
the Ayushman Bharat scheme.”

He added, “By 2030, we will work towards a distress-free healthcare and a functional and comprehensive wellness system for all. Such a healthy India built with the participation of women having equal rights and concern for their safety and empowerment.”

“Additionally, the Mental Health Act budget, which should have seen a dramatic  increase, has dropped from an already low budget of Rs 50 crore to Rs 40 crore.  There also does not seem to have been a thought on providing incentives for setting  up hospitals across the country. This was a base need if we need to cover ground on starting to build health infrastructure. However, there is an increased focus on National Rural Health Mission for setting up primary care wellness centres with a budgetary allocation of Rs. 1,350 crore, which will help rural India get better access to basic healthcare,” Varun said.

An optimistic Abhishek said, “Today, NCDs form a significant part of the economic burden that the Indian healthcare industry faces. Increasing access to preventive health services would reduce hospitalisation cost. Moreover, I see a huge opportunity to spread the vision of digital India (as discussed in the Budget) to the healthcare sector. Mobile health technologies have a significant role to play in delivering more robust, data-centric, and interventions for chronic disease management. As data costs decrease, more people have access to smartphones.”

“The power of technology can be harnessed to reach a larger population not only with the aim of educating but also empowering people to manage their health conditions and improve their health outcomes, thereby, reducing the chronic disease burden in  our country,” he added.

Pic source: PIB

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