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Healthcare experts welcome Union Budget 2018
Our Bureau, Mumbai | Friday, February 2, 2018, 16:10 Hrs  [IST]

The healthcare experts have welcomed the Union Budget 2018 presented in Parliament by finance minister Arun Jaitly.

Welcoming the budget, OPPI president A Vaidheesh said, “We applaud the Finance Minister’s call for a Swastha Bharat Smridha Bharat (Healthy India Progressive India) and focus on healthcare delivery and access. The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) and enhancing the cover to Rs. 5 lakhs from Rs. 30,000 to cover 100 million families per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization, is a step in the right direction. Further, we are encouraged by the path-breaking intervention on healthcare access through an allocation of Rs. 1,200 crore for the flagship Ayushman Bharat programme under which 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres will provide  free essential drugs and services.  The announcement of upgrading district medical colleges to twenty four (24) new government medical college & hospitals translating to one medical college per three (3) parliamentary constituencies will also improve access”.  

Welcoming the Budget, Dr Usha Manjunath, director, Indian Institute of Health Management and Research (IIHMR), Bengaluru, said, “All of the provisions in Budget 2018 with respect to healthcare are related to need areas. Investment for health and wellness centres are very welcome given the lifestyle and chronic disease burden in the country. Another welcome move is the increase of National Health Protection schemes coverage to Rs. 5 lakh for poor families. Nutrition for TB is also accepted well. However, the hope is that the operational issues in disbursement get worked out fast enough to make an impact.”

Prof. Dayashankar Maurya, Professor - Healthcare Management at TAPMI, said, “Given low public spending on healthcare, higher allocations to health sector is much needed and welcome step. National Health Protection Scheme brings more resources and more families to healthcare system, however given the problems observed in similar government sponsored health insurance programs and apprehensions expressed by various reports, design and implementation will be crucial”.

Ravi Dawar, director-finance, BD-India, said, “The budget is certainly promising for the healthcare sector. BD as an organization is committed to advancing the world of health in the country by improving delivery of care and we believe that the budget would benefit the citizens and the recommendations are certainly steps taken in the right direction. Since we are closely working towards eliminating the threat of tuberculosis (TB) in the country, we are extremely happy with the government’s plan to allocate Rs. 600 crore for providing nutritional support to TB patients”.

Commenting on the budget, AdvaMed said, “The launch of the flagship health protection scheme is a step in the right direction to improve people's ability to pay. The government’s recognition of the need to strengthen healthcare infrastructure for building capacity is also showcased in their move to allocate a fund of Rs. 1,200 crore for creation of 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres as envisioned in NHP 2017 to provide comprehensive healthcare for NCDs, maternal and child health services.  Investment in healthcare education by building one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies is also a welcome step”.

According to Gaurav Malhotra CEO and managing director of Medicover Fertility, “The Govt has taken an initiative to provide health protection for secondary and tertiary hospitalization However, no step was taken towards the GST rates as input GST on medical devices, medicine and diagnostics make increase the total cost for the patient. There is a need to make healthcare affordable for the Poor and reduce the out of pocket expenses of diagnostics. Govt should also take steps to make infertility/IVF to bring under Insurance spectrum as in in India 13% of the couple are suffering from this but only 1% couple are availing treatment as cost is high and total treatment is out of pocket while in most of the countries it is under the insurance spectrum. The government has allotted an amount of Rs. 600 crore for nutritional support for TB patients. This is a good move as TB is one of the causes of increasing infertility among the young couples. Besides TB other lifestyle issues should also be taken care of.”

According to Dr Anand Bansal, medical director at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, "Undoubtedly, this budget is like a boon for the poor population as the government has planned a lot, which will benefit the masses directly. The allocation of Rs. 1,200 crore for the health wellness centres programme under which 1.5 lac health and wellness centers will be set up. I highly appreciate the National health protection scheme which will provide Rs 5 lac per family annually for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. This is the world’s largest health programme and will surely reduce the healthcare burden. The Govt has also encouraged the citizens in this budget to invest in healthcare policies for elderly in their family by conferred them with increase in tax deduction and hiked section 80-D limit for senior citizens. Also, we hope that the initiative of financial assistance of Rs. 500 a month to tuberculosis patients will encourage masses to undergo treatment for TB which leads to eliminating of this disease. One medical college per every three Parliamentary constituencies is another appreciable step taken by the government which will surely be fulfilling the shortage of doctors in India."

Poonam Muttreja, ED, Population Foundation of India, said, “A mere 11.5 per cent increase in budgetary allocations for health from Rs. 47,353 crore from previous year to Rs. 52,800 crore is disappointing and discouraging especially with the announcement of schemes that require large sums of money. The budgetary allocations are clearly mismatched with the stated policies goals despite the political commitment to increase investments in health (National Health Policy 2017), family planning, and achieve better health outcomes (SDG Goals). The continuing trend in lower budgetary allocations for health reinforce the fact that, while there is the intention and attempt to improve the health status in the country, the financial commitment continues to be missing for translating these goals into action”.

Dr. Sujit Chatterjee, CEO, Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Powai said, “It is a very welcome step by the government of India to provide subsidized healthcare for the poor in the country. It is a splendid step towards building a new India. The only challenge here from an infrastructure perspective is to build the essential point of care network to deliver these benefits to the patients. It is a grand move by the government towards strengthening Aarogya Bharat”.

According to Rekuram Varadharaj, co-founder and COO, healthi,  “it is encouraging to see that the government is establishing a National Programme to direct efforts in the area of Artificial Intelligence. This and the fact that there is a major focus on healthcare in the budget this year will benefit organizations like healthi aiming to provide more people with access to preventive healthcare. It remains to be seen how the setting up of a National Health Protection Scheme, the world’s largest government-funded universal healthcare programme, will take off. If implemented in the right manner, it can prove to be a big enabler for healthi and like-minded organizations”.

Dr Anand Lakshman, Founder & CEO, AddressHealth, said, “The healthcare budget this year is certainly a pathbreaking one due to its sheer size, coverage, and amount committed per family. Setting up of 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres with access to free essential drugs and diagnostic services is a plus. These centres will also address children’s health and therefore will prove to be an enabler for organizations like AddressHealth working in this area. We also welcome the allocation of Rs. 600 crore to provide nutrition to TB patients.”

According to Ganesh Sabat, CEO, Sahajanand Medical Technologies, “This year’s Union Budget has been a people’s budget with a focus to uphold Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. Schemes such as the launch of National Health Protection Scheme and bringing 24 new medical colleges pan India are some useful highlights being implemented by the Government. Through the introduction of these massive health programmes, the Government is giving a clear signal that it is concerned about the healthcare and social security of the masses and they believe that medical healthcare is one of the backbone of the economy. This step is a productive move towards the path of universal healthcare for the poor and weaker section of our society.”

Meena Ganesh, MD & CEO, Portea Medical said that the proposed creation of the World largest healthcare funded programme wherein Health Protection Insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakh per annum per household, a benefit that would extend to about 50 crore people, is a major move and paves the way for universal health coverage.

Mamta Wadhwa, vice president, Frost & Sullivan, said, “Health Insurance Cover will boost the health insurance sector, health service providers, and also the pharmaceutical sector in general”.

Gautam Khanna, CEO at PD Hinduja Hospital & MRC, said that the proposed launch of the flagship National Health Protection Scheme which would cover 10 crore poor and vulnerable families and provide up to Rs. 5 lakh per family per year for hospitalization in secondary and tertiary care institutions. With 50 crore beneficiaries, this would be one of the largest benefits program of its kind in the world. The proposal to open up 1.5 lakh healthcare centres to provide free essential drugs and diagnostics is also equally laudable and reflects the government’s concern for the common man’s health.”

According to Satish Reddy, chairman, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, “The government’s focus on rural development and agriculture is a welcome step. The long overdue emphasis on our rural economy and agriculture will stimulate demand. The announcement of the Aayushman Bharat program for healthcare is a game changer and the coverage of ten crore people under the National health protection scheme is commendable. This will give an impetus to healthcare benefits for people in the most deserving sections of society”.

Dr. Pavan Kumar- senior cardiac surgeon, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon from Lilavati Hospital –Mumbai, said the launch of National Health Protection Scheme which will benefit 50 crore population & Rs. 1,200 crore has allocated for wellness centre where they will provide essential drugs & diagnostic services is one of the best highlight of this 2018-19 union budget.

Dr. Aparajita Gogoi, executive director, Centre for Catalyzing Change, said, “The decision of the government’s Ayushman Bharat Program of increasing availability of drugs and diagnostics to reach all 1.5 lakh health centres will be of benefit to women. Childbearing women need to often pay out of pocket for these services in case they are not available. With better availability of drugs and diagnostics and general investment of Rs. 1,200 crore to overall healthcare is bound to raise demand for services. It is hoped that these monitoring investments will lead to overall improvement in the quality of maternal and child health services and lower infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate, so that we meet SDG 3.2 in the near future.”

Sandeep Bali, CEO,, a Baidyanath Group company, said "With the government giving the mission of Ayurveda a push, these initiatives would bring age-old Ayurvedic remedies to the users in a modern form that they recognize. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing the initiative of setting up one Ayurveda hospital in each district end of last year, and now with the focus on healthcare in the Union Budget, this is a good time to be in the Ayurveda sector."

Dr. Rajendra Patankar, COO, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital said, “This is a massive boost to the healthcare industry and health insurance sector on one side and adding more medical college will help to improve the doctor population ratio thereby helping us achieve a healthier India. This will be first time the preventive health care will start getting its due credit in the country.”

This is a very well rounded budget with a very good focus on healthcare and education. The budget has great news for the entire country's healthcare ecosystem. Launching the largest healthcare programme benefiting 50 crore people will give a huge boost to the entire healthcare ecosystem in the country especially in Tier 2 markets. The implementation is something that will be tested over time but this is a great step towards - 'Universal health coverage' for the entire country. Also the critical illness waiver on medical insurance is a welcome step for elderly people in the country. Finally 'Swasth Bharat ' will be a reality, said Dr. Dhaval Shah Co-founder PharmEasy.

Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD) expressed deep disappointment and anguish over the Union Budget 2018-19 giving cold shoulder to the Indian Medical Device Industry. “We were expecting the government to move forward on promised reforms and anticipated conducive measures to boost domestic manufacturing of the medical devices. It is frustrating that against our expectations, the government has not included any measures for promoting growth of $10 billion Indian medical device market in the Union Budget 2018-19 as has been done for consumer electronics, food processing, footwear, etc. It reeks of step-motherly treatment”.

MS Sreedhar, MD and CEO, Royal Sundaram General Insurance Company Limited, said, “The Union Budget has set a positive tone overall and affirms the government’s continued commitment to push reforms and investments.  The government seeks to bring greater focus on the rural and agricultural segments through positive initiatives and has proposed some far reaching reforms with a view to boost economic growth. The proposed National Health Protection Scheme is a timely move to not only make health insurance accessible but also offer wider coverage to manage critical illness. These initiatives would usher in a new era for the under penetrated general insurance industry. In addition, the increased limit for exemption under Section 80D for health insurance premium to Rs. 50,000/- and raising the limit on critical illness up to Rs. 1 lakh (both for senior citizens) is a welcome move. However, introduction of tax on long term capital gain may be a dampener for the stock markets. Overall, we hope that this budget will aid in consolidating the reforms and steering the economy in the right direction.”
Commenting on the healthcare budget and the allocation of Rs. 1,200 crore towards Health and Wellness Centres that will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases, Abhishek Shah, Co-Founder of Wellthy Therapeutics said, “This step will significantly help in combating one of the biggest challenges in healthcare in India today, which is the rising burden of Non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCDs such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease contribute to 61% of all mortalities every year in our country, and the WHO estimates that these will cost India almost $5 trillion dollars by 2030. This budgetary allocation for the prevention and treatment non-communicable diseases will be a critical step to stem the tide now”.

Mahesh Balasubramanian, MD & CEO, Kotak General Insurance, said, “It is very heartening to hear our FM clearly spell out the governments focus on healthcare protection in the country. Initiatives like increasing health & education cess will allow more room for spending on healthcare. Schemes like Ayushmaan Bharat, PM will get more people in the healthcare fold. Increase in exemption limits for Sr. Citizens u/s 80D will incentivize the elderly for buying health insurance.”

According to Dr. Pavan Kumar- Senior Cardiac Surgeon, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon from Lilavati Hospital –Mumbai, last budget AIIMS story is still incomplete and there is no provision for improvement in present govt hospitals and so there is no point of announcement of another 24 medical colleges.  Private healthcare provides around 75 to 80 per cent of healthcare in the country so we are expecting some private & public partnership deal in this budget which will automatically improve better healthcare access in rural India but there is no such announcement in this budget. Unfortunately Healthcare & Job creation has not been considered in this 2018-19 union budget.

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