Budget

Budget 2018 should be ‘healthy’ one for all Indians: Industry Leaders

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With Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Central Government all set to present its annual budget on 1 February this year, there is a lot of expectation in all quarters. While the general public has its own set of wishes for cost reductions or tax relaxations, the Industry certainly has its own set of expectations.

Medical professionals have this opinion that Government should allocate more funds to ensure quality, affordable healthcare to all. They believe that Government should focus more on public health cover in the backdrop of rising medical inflation rate in India.

While talking exclusively to Elets News Network (ENN), Industry experts have expressed their views. Here are the reactions-

“We expect the Budget (2018) to be a ‘healthy’ one for all Indians and look forward to the Government increasing its spending on public health cover as well as incentivizing health insurance purchase. Incentives could be in the form of a lower GST slab for health insurance premiums paid from the existing 18 per cent to five per cent and higher tax benefits under Section 80D,” Ashish Mehrotra, MD & CEO, Max Bupa Health Insurance said.

On asking how this step will be beneficial, Mehrotra said, “Tax benefits will boost penetration of health insurance as well as help nurture a culture of preventive healthcare in India.”

Padma Shree, Presidential Awardee (Prof) Dr Sanjeev Bagai opines that Government should consider healthcare as top priority sector and allocate more funds for medical education, skill development, technology development and post-graduate specialists training. The focus must be on women and child health, primary health care and lifestyle diseases, said Bagai.

Dr PM Bhujang, President of Association of Hospitals holds the opinion that the services rendered to hospitals should keep away from the ambit of GST. He thinks that the exemption on GST on the inputs will reduce the cost to the hospitals and consequently cost of medical services to a patient.

“The hospitals should be allowed to claim refund of GST on inputs as it will help the Healthcare industry in cost optimisation by making the healthcare more affordable. Additionally, charitable hospitals should be exempted from GST/ Central Excise/ Service Tax on supply of Disposable, Medicines Implants, stents and Lenses so that more Indigent and poor Patients can be provided Free and concessional Medical Services, as more funds will be available to serve more needy patients”, Bhujang said.

Bhavdeep Singh, CEO, Fortis Healthcare Limited believes that there is a huge need to strengthen our healthcare sector to address the growing disease burden of the country. While the proactive steps taken by the Government in this regard are a good start, the budget should continue to embark on this path.

“ As an instrument of change, the budget can create more avenues for a major play for private-public partnerships for wider coverage of quality healthcare in the country. Apart from widening and strengthening primary healthcare platforms, it is imperative that we strengthen our secondary and tertiary care in the country as well. In this space, private healthcare can play a major part and support the effort, “Singh said.

He further said, “By supporting initiatives like tax holidays for new hospitals as well as strengthening the medical insurance sector to make quality healthcare affordable, it has an opportunity to bring in some quality change. The out of pocket expenses handled by people should be reduced by way of wider medical insurance coverage so that the quality healthcare is affordable and accessible to all.”

Khushroo A Pastakia, CEO & Managing Director, Voxtur Bio Ltd., said, “GST on all purchases–on consumables and equipment and on AMC/CMC contract to be brought down to 5 per cent slab rate. Hospitals are bleeding.”

Vivek Srivastava, co-founder and CEO, Healthcare at HOME, holds the opinion that there is a huge scope and potential in the Indian home healthcare market. He believes that there is a need of over 6 lakh+ beds to cater to our population and home healthcare can bridge this gap as it reduces the requirement of the hospital beds, which can be provided to more needy patients.

“With the severe shortage of doctors and healthcare infrastructure, home healthcare solutions can relieve the burden on hospitals significantly, improving access to quality healthcare for all. Home healthcare, as a step-down care for even critical conditions, is considerably more economically viable for the patient. By including it in the ambit of national and state level health insurance schemes, affordability can be further increased”, Srivastava said.

“Good health should be a fundamental right. A simple step like mandating health insurance can help improve India’s health status. In the current situation, home healthcare can provide immediate results in reducing India’s healthcare burden. With support of the Government, it can improve accessibility and affordability of quality healthcare services for everyone,” he further said.

Srinivasan HR, Managing Director and Vice-chairman of  TAKE Solution, said, “We need an increase in the core Research & Development investments in the current ‘Make in India’ initiative for more positive impact on healthcare organisations.”

Yogesh Mudras, MD, UBM India, believes that the Government needs to re-think to promote research & innovation in India and offer some incentives to the pharma companies who are operating in the most dynamic markets – India and US.

“With the vision of making India as one of the top 3 countries in the pharma industry globally, the Government should allocate more funds for R&D and innovation and should increase it to 2%-3% of GDP from 0.69% GDP at present in their next budget announcement for the pharma industry.” Mudras said.

Mr. Amol Naikawadi, JMD, Indus Health Plus opines, “The healthcare services should also be included in the GST at a nominal rate. This will ensure all transactions in the healthcare sector to be mapped in the tax system, adding revenue to the Government, and healthcare organisations getting the benefit of input tax credit. This approach will help in ensuring a fair price for the end-consumers and also meeting the Government’s objective of raising revenue in a transparent and unbiased method.”

He believes that preventive health checkups are highly beneficial to reduce the burden of diseases in the country.

“In its 2017’s National Health Policy, the Government aims ‘to achieve the highest possible level of good health and well-being, through a preventive and promotive healthcare’; this might be achieved if the tax exemption limit is increased. More people will be motivated to avail health screenings and stop depending upon curative treatments only,” he added.

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