It’s been a tough year for everyone since Covid-19 spread across the globe. Like much of the world, India has recognized the importance of the healthcare sector in combating and managing a pandemic as deadly as the coronavirus.
It’s also commendable that healthcare workers have been identified and are receiving vaccine doses at a fast clip. There’s a lot more that the government can do to help increase the efficacy of the healthcare sector. Now, more than ever the following expectations should be met by the Honourable Finance Minister in the upcoming Union Budget 2021.
1 – Increase Public Healthcare Expenditure
The global average of GDP on healthcare is 8% while India’s share is just 3%. We need to urgently increase our spend on GDP on healthcare to 5%.
2 – Build Strong PPP Models
Increasing trust and reducing friction between private and public facilities in the healthcare department can enhance the value of the sector manifold and the government should look at this right away.
3 – Enhance Collaboration Efforts
Indian Government has done a good Job so far and government needs to bring the scientific community, members of the academia, and other stakeholders in the healthcare department together to strengthen R&D in drug discovery and raise the bar in providing quality and affordable healthcare to all.
4 – Strengthen Health Infrastructure
The pandemic brought to the fore India’s stretched healthcare infrastructure. India currently has just seven beds for every 10,000 people whereas the global average is 27 beds. The government can do a lot through the Union Budget such as provide investment in Research & Development and equipment, add more hospitals, doctors and nursing staff and aid the overall healthcare infrastructure to function better.
5 – Take Private Hospitals To Smaller Towns
Private hospitals need not be restricted only to India’s cities. The right incentives given to the private sector will help them modernize healthcare facilities and increase investment in rural and remote areas, which will also help in generating employment.
6 – Encourage Telemedicine And Home Healthcare
The pandemic-driven trend of providing telemedicine should be encouraged with specific incentives under India’s digital mission. This will also help in accurate testing and diagnosis of patients and more relevant data for the government in the long run.
7 – Extend Package Under Ayushman Bharat To Hospitals
The Union Budget can help further its own Ayushman Bharat scheme by providing hospitals with the incentive to work with profits and remain in business to serve patients. State and central government collaboration is must — one nation one health policy .
8 – Address Needs Of Medical Device Manufacturers
A broader relief to the pandemic-battered MSME sector can also help many Medical Device manufacturers to bounce back and provide a boost to the government’s Make In India and Atmanirbhar Bharat schemes. Vocal for local is good concept — it need to be backed up and given all the support .
9 – Provide GST Benefits For Healthcare Services
The government should consider making healthcare more affordable by taking an immediate step of making 'zero rating' of Goods and Services Tax (GST) for healthcare services and products including drugs and medical devices. This will not only increase affordability but will also increase accessibility of healthcare products and services.
Further, the Union Budget 2021-22 must also rationalize GST for health insurance policies. Currently, the government taxes health insurance policies at 18 per cent GST. This should be reduced to 5 per cent as such a step will help to boost the insurance coverage rate and play a major role in increasing the demand for health insurance policies.
10 – Boost Measures Announced Under Medical Device Park
We expect to hear more about this project that was first announced in last year’s Union Budget so that concerned parties can take it ahead in the best way possible to provide world-class treatment at affordable prices.
11 – Eliminate Customs Duty On Raw Material Imports
It would help the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat and Make In India schemes to abolish customs duty on raw material imports so that we see more homegrown products coming to the fore.
12 – Relook Customs Duty On Medical Devices
The government can look to increase customs duty on select imported medical devices as India is capable of manufacturing world-class devices on its own turf as well. Along with this, the Union Budget should also look to eliminate the current healthcare cess of 5 % on all imported devices.
We believe these measures will help to grow the healthcare industry in India to a great extent while also supporting many of the governments’ schemes, making it a win-win for all parties. We eagerly look forward to hearing from the Honourable Finance Minister on Budget Day and hope healthcare finds its due in her speech.
This article has been authored by Dinesh Arora . Senior level executive with medical device company and these are his personal views
This is a partnered post.