Budget 2018: More funds needed to achieve quality healthcare, say industry experts

Budget 2018

Amid high hope and expectations, the Central Government will be presenting its annual Budget next month on February 1. Healthcare professionals, common people have firm belief that the Government will allocate more funds to this Industry to achieve its goal of providing quality and affordable medical facilities to each and every Individual.

Though Modi Government has taken many initiatives in recent past, whole process needs to be made more streamlined, believes Industry leaders. Healthcare professionals have many grievances including Government spending on health sector which is only around 1 per cent of GDP.

The figure is very low in comparison to US and Japan which spends 17% and 11% of GDP respectively on this sector. Another pain point is the Industry being treated at par with the entertainment Industry as far as charges for utilities like power consumption is concerned.

Experts believe that to resuscitate this Industry, Government needs to accord national priority status to healthcare, and has to work upon on providing universal health insurance to all. Apart from these, Industry people have this opinion that Government needs to spend more on R&D and also focus more in providing quality healthcare service in rural areas.

Here is how medical professionals have reacted while talking exclusively to Elets News Network (ENN):

Manish Sacheti, CFO, Ziqitza Healthcare Ltd believes that though Government introduced various amendments in the budget last year there are still persistent issues which should be addressed this year.

“With more than 68% of people living in the rural areas, amendments should be made for better public healthcare services in the interiors of the country. Investments should be made in increasing the number of health professionals in the public health sector, Sacheti said.

He holds the view that the Government should invest in establishing skill centres which can train paramedics who are well versed in handling accidents and various other emergencies, as this will help the quality of emergency response services in our country.

The Government should allocate budget to develop technology that will help in reducing the time taken for an ambulance to reach the emergency. This can be in form of advanced GPS technology, live traffic monitoring and updates, fitness devices that can monitor health and transfer emergency signals in real time. If a push is given to the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) sector, it will, in turn help the healthcare professionals to save more lives, he further added.

Khushroo A. Pastakia, CEO & Managing Director, Voxtur Bio Ltd says a wide gap exists in local manufacturing of high-quality medical devices and this is especially important in view of the fact that a significant 70 per cent of healthcare spends is through private spending.

Make In India slogan can be successfully implemented into reality, only if the Government provides sufficient level playing ground for the indigenous players to perform, coupled with varieties of incentives. The Indian medical devices market size is of Rs 24,000 crore, with a compounded annual growth rate of 15%, but around 75 percent of the demand is met through imports, while the nascent domestic industry predominantly manufactures low-risk products, Pastakia said.

He believes that growth of medical device industry is hampered by lack of adequate testing support for regulatory compliance, limited availability of manpower, lack of adequate industrial R&D, high cost and inaccessibility of imported technology.

Public-funded institutions need to take up the role of catalyst and facilitator, for increasing the share of indigenous manufacturing of medical devices and equipment from the current 25 percent, he further added.

Pastakia also advocated for hike in medical reimbursements limit of salaried employees from its current yearly slab of Rs 15,000. As medical inflation is growing at 18-20% per annum, the healthcare expenses of the average household are easily exceeding the medical allowance limit of Rs 15,000 per year. In order to align with inflation and increasing cost of living, the government should not only further rationalize the personal taxation limit significantly, but also hike medical reimbursements limit, he further opined.

Dr. Dharminder Nagar, MD of Paras Healthcare, thinks that healthcare industry should be given some leeway in terms of GST implementation to ensure better services to patients by healthcare providers.

The Government must also come out with clear roadmap to make medical insurance more popular. It must also exclude the medical insurance premium exempt from GST. Given the acute shortage of manpower, there is need to industry representation in central universities and even medical colleges so that healthcare industry can source talent appropriately, Nagar said.

Mr Debayan Ghosh, President and CEO of Epygen Pvt Ltd said, There is no questioning the fact that Healthcare spending needs a serious firming up. Where US spends 17% and Europe or Japan spends 11% of GDP on healthcare, we are struggling to move up to 2.5% by 2025. Despite this 100% jump in recent times, we are far from global standards. Indian economy is banking on the confidence that stems from domestic consumption and well being.

Ghosh has this opinion that fundamental healthcare needs of the common man will remain vital. Healthcare facilities reaching across the nation, affordable medication for critical non-communicable disorders and vaccination programs will continue to demand focus. A proposed 11% increase in health budget, appears insufficient to boost this sector, resonating the tune that has been set, Debayan Ghosh said.

Dr Dharminder Nagar MD, Paras Healthcare says that healthcare delivery remains a major challenge in India with concerted Government attention required at multiple levels

“We expect a decent rise in healthcare spending this year. It must reach above 1.5% of the GDP in line with the target of 2.5% by 2025. Low penetration of medical insurance, as well as unavailability of coverage for outpatient expenditure and existing diseases, are other significant concerns that we expect the government to address, Nagar said

He is optimistic that Government will decrease high GST rates on medical equipment and input services as they force hospitals to either pass on the increase to consumers or curtail other services to cut costs.

The Government must also come out with clear roadmap to make medical insurance more popular. It must also exclude the medical insurance premium from GST. Given the acute shortage of manpower, there is also need for industry representation in central universities and even medical colleges so that healthcare industry can source talent appropriately,” Nagar further added.

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