The Budget 2023 is certainly a vital link for filling several gaps in Indian healthcare. However, some of the measures such as increase in budgetary allocation for healthcare (to at least 2.5–3.5 percent of the total GDP), and increase in Tax Exemption & Benefits for patients, Tax Benefits for Healthcare Infrastructure Development in Tier 2 & 3 cities etc., that the sector put forward for consideration are yet to be addressed by the government. If implemented, they would also definitely help build a robust infrastructure for securing the health of India, says Gautham Khanna, CEO, Hinduja Hospitals and Medical Research Centre.
As nations recover from the aftermath of COVID-19, there is no better time to evaluate the gaps in our healthcare sector and fortify them. And the Union Budget 2023 is a vital link to this. The Clarion call from the sector was to roll out some concrete measures to catalyse growth in the sector, move closer towards Universal health and prepare for any such crisis in future.
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Some of these recommendations to the government were an increase in budgetary allocation for healthcare (to at least 2.5–3.5 percent of the total GDP), and increase in Tax Exemption & Benefits for patients, Tax Benefits for Healthcare Infrastructure development in Tier 2 & 3 cities, long term financing option for healthcare sector, boosting skill development, technology & medical value travel (MVT), facilitating Ease of Doing Business, and accelerating research and innovation for the sector.
Although some of these measures are yet to be addressed by the government, they, if implemented, would certainly help build a robust infrastructure for securing the health of India.
With an allocation of Rs. 89,155 crore for healthcare in the Union budget 2023-24, the focus would be on enhancing India’s capabilities and resources through increased manpower, R&D, and PPP in healthcare sector. Setting up of 157 new Nursing colleges is welcome, in view of the severe shortage of nurses in the country. However the current state of existing Nursing colleges must be evaluated for upgradation and better job opportunity for nurses to be identified to curb international migration.
The idea of setting up a Center of Excellence in AI for health along with the strengthened impetus towards medical education will accelerate the development of new-age, technology-driven medical solutions for better disease management and encourage start-ups to come up with Innovative solutions in the Healthcare Delivery space.
Creating awareness of prevention and early screening is not only essential in eliminating sickle cell anaemia but would also be a great stepping stone for similar diseases, however its success will depend on effective implementation.
The increased focus on encouraging medical education and PPP will aid the sector’s growth. The budgeted increase in healthcare expenditure of 15 percent does not seem to be enough to tide over the current challenges of upgradation of infrastructure and providing accessibility and affordability for quality healthcare in the country. Notable research suggest, focusing on known health improvements could deliver an incremental economic benefit of $2 to $4 for each $1 invested. A robust healthcare system drives GDP growth in the presence of adequate investments and a conducive environment by not only acting as a productivity and employment generator, but also as a magnet to attract foreign exchange earnings and provide opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.
It would have been better if there were new tax exemptions for healthcare, which is vital to expand infrastructure in tier 2 & 3 cities, and reduce healthcare expenses and out of the pocket spending. We are looking forward to clear indications of the steps to be implemented for healthcare infrastructure development and move closer towards universal health coverage with increased expenditure as a percentage to GDP. After all, ‘healthier citizens build a healthier nation and economy.
—The author, Gautam Khanna, isCEO at P. D. Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Center, Mumbai. The views expressed are personal.
(Edited by : C H Unnikrishnan)
First Published: Feb 2, 2023 6:42 PM IST
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