Budget 2022 Expectations: What Health and Medical Experts Say

Budget 2022-23 is just a few days away. Union Minister of Finance Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman will present Union Budget 2022-23 in Lok Sabha on February 01. There are expectations listed here by the health and the medical fraternity. The minister must listen to them.

Raktim Chattopadhyay, Founder & CEO, Esperer Nutrition: “On the eve of the Budget of such a large democratic country, there is no point debating priorities. It’s imperative we want government to emphasize on social safety. The latest Covid surge appears to be the biggest risk factor for the economy at the moment. We are coming out from a very high fiscal deficit. Common people of the country expect deduction on medical expenses, tax exemption on annuity income, and a hike in basic exemption cap. So I feel, to achieve the same we must stand strong with government and encourage to not compromise on capital expenditure. Because the fear remains, when the emphasis is on controlling the fiscal deficit, the axe always falls on capital expenditure. We must balance our aspirations and reality when looking at the Budget critically.”

Vikram Thaploo, CEO, Apollo Telehealth: “India is combating a massive global pandemic with its resources available in the health sector. The health sector is expecting more specific allotments in this year’s Budget to mitigate Covid-19 and help in the growth of the telemedicine sector. The telemedicine segment is growing at a rapid pace and in the future, we are expecting more technological innovations to take place in the industry. Therefore, the Budget should be well allocated to the healthcare sector to initiate new innovations to be prepared for the fight with pandemics, like covid-19 in the future. It is important especially in a country like India where digital health can truly provide care to areas with short supply of doctors. Increased allocation of Budget for promotion of telemedicine, home-based healthcare and National Digital Health Mission implementation will help in building a strong healthcare ecosystem in the country. Telemedicine has potential to improve access to healthcare in remote and rural areas. Home-based healthcare will reduce burden on limited healthcare facilities. Digital health along with various innovations should be encouraged for India’s future growth in health sector. The government should also support private players and startups in this segment to increase the current coverage of the locations including tier-2 and tier-3 cities to provide the advanced healthcare facilities in these areas.”

Ashok Patel, CEO and Founder, Max Ventilator: “Apart from the need to raise the share of healthcare as a proportion of GDP to at least 2.5 per cent in the upcoming Budget, the government must also further build on its earlier policy incentives such as PLI schemes and dedicated medtech parks by increasing allocations. In fact, the government should ensure that the smaller medical device players also get included and can benefit from the special schemes and offers that it has extended with a view to catalyze domestic manufacturing and to achieve the larger goal of self-reliance. Given the repeated occurrences of infectious diseases of epidemic scale in recent years, the government should also invest sufficiently into genetic and genomic research, epidemiology and vaccine research besides increasing allocation for broader healthcare R&D. Of course, the diagnostics and preventive health device segment must be given as much policy and financial support as possible. Further, the Budget could also incentivize the consumables as well as medical device accessory segments, which hold huge promise for the domestic sector. At the same time, adequate allocation must be made for training of personnel required for the deployment and usage of critical care equipment such as ventilators and other similar lifesaving devices.”

Nikkhil K Masurkar, Executive Director, ENTOD Pharmaceuticals: “The pharmaceutical and medical devices industry has gained significant momentum owing to the government’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat initiative. The Union Budget 2022 is expected to build on the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes and encourage continued investments in capacity expansion of sensitive APIs, drug intermediates, complex excipients, biopharmaceuticals and medical devices. While the draft R&D policy focuses on creating an ecosystem for research and innovation, certain tax incentives for the investment in ‘R&D focused funds’, set up for R&D based activities, could be introduced. India should participate in the innovation area at a global level. Along with a scheme, similar to the PLI, the government needs to consider tax incentives to attract innovation. Interaction with industry and global players can help India’s pharmaceutical sector to move from a generic manufacturer to an innovator developer and manufacturer for the world.

Apart from that, technology/digital transformation is another key area of focus. In fact, it would be the building block for the much-expected universal healthcare in India. Presently, GST on drugs is taxed under four categories – nil, 5%, 12% and 18%. While a few life-saving drugs are taxed at nil rates, some are taxed at 5 per cent and the majority fall under the 12 per cent GST slab. Extensions of a tax deduction on product development and R&D are some of the other demands of the pharmaceutical sector. The industry also seeks a 150 per cent deduction in tax on in-house R&D.”

Aashish Chaudhry, Managing Director, Aakash Healthcare, Dwarka : “The sudden emergence of Covid-19 prompted the Indian government to nearly double its healthcare budget year over year. As a result, the most prominent area of focus in Budget 2022 is expected to be healthcare. We anticipate that the government of India will increase its healthcare spending in this budget. The last Budget announced a 137% increase in healthcare spending to address some of the gaps. Healthcare accounted for about 1.8 percent of GDP in 2021. We should aim to raise it to at least 2.5 percent of GDP this year. Despite the focus on the Covid-19 pandemic at the moment, it is critical to increase the proportion of spending on preventive healthcare and wellness. Ayushman Bharat is undeniably a positive step toward achieving the goal of universal healthcare; however, more funding is required to ensure its long-term success.”

Sugandh Ahluwalia, Chief of Strategy, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre: “As we enter into the third year of the pandemic, our expectations for Budget 2022 are for increased spending on healthcare. India’s total healthcare expenditure is significantly lower than that of other countries. The pandemic has highlighted the critical need for high-quality public hospitals. More public-private partnerships, as well as additional investments, are required to strengthen indigenous manufacturing of medical devices, personal protective equipment (PPE), and raw materials for drugs. Hence, the government must allocate more Budget for the healthcare industry. Furthermore, higher tax breaks for the private sector to modernise medical facilities will go a long way toward ensuring better healthcare, more investments, and thus more jobs.”

Amit Srivastava, Chief Catalyst, Nutrify Today

“There is a need to create a department of nutraceuticals and dietary supplements along with HSN codes to have a systematic classification of goods. The government needs to provide aid of Rs 100 crore incubation fund. This will provide growth impetus to the sector. Formulation of Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLIS) is something that the sector is desperately looking out for in order to become more robust and contribute extensively towards the development of the country’s economy. The utmost important part that the government can do to help the sector flourish is by creating a department for the nutraceutial sector under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.”

Dr. Gauri Agarwal, Found & Director, Genestrings Diagnostic and Seeds of Innocence: “During the pandemic, medical diagnostics emerged as the first line of disease containment and the most important public health measure. The World Health Organization’s “T3: Test. Treat. Track.” initiative to combat Covid-19 has brought diagnostics to the forefront, emphasizing the growing need for better testing capabilities and the importance of quality. People have begun to understand the importance and needs of molecular/genetic testing, and it has invariably resulted in increased investments by large private labs and establishment of more RT PCR labs across the country. In this sense, the government’s collaboration with the private sector, while refocusing on life science, healthcare, and diagnostics, will play a critical role in deciding the future of diagnostics in the country.

Public Private Partnership models as have been proposed earlier by National Health Authority, are promising initiatives of mutual efforts, whereby models for partnership with private diagnostic companies were proposed for bettering the infrastructure, services and quality of testing in Tier II and Tier III Cities. We advocate the principle of introducing high-end molecular/genetic testing at a micro-level in cities for reducing the difficulties in accessing quality testing and for strengthening regional medical infrastructure at a micro-level. We, further, are staunch believers of developing indigenuous testing technologies, medical devices and related infrastructure to promote an environment of Research and Development in this field. Accordingly, with the help of the government’s grants, we can collectively formulate and implement cheaper alternatives to expensive genetic testing.”

“The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2021 is a quantum leap by the Union Government to promote the Indian IVF industry. However, it is pertinent to focus that the nodal concern still remains to be the general people of the country and their struggles with access to Assisted Reproductive Technologies, popularly, IVF. The problem is complemented by a failure by leading insurance companies to cover infertility, which makes it highly difficult for general people to avail these services.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) is a dynamic approach to the science of reproduction and is not only limited to conceiving; rather, it is also engaged in spreading an overall awareness about the right contraceptive measures and appropriate sanitation procedures. Consequently, it is an essential discipline concerning the overall health and well-being of people.

Recent research in this field has constantly warned us about the expected increase in the infertility rates of the country. Hence, it becomes significant to undertake preventive measures against this. Accordingly, increasing accessibility to ARTs in rural areas and providing more incentives to people to avail these services will come as a boon to the Indian IVF industry, which is expected to become a $12 billion global market in the coming financial year.”