Healthcare industry welcomes Union Budget 2018

Our Bureau, MumbaiThursday, February 1, 2018, 15:40 Hrs  [IST]

The healthcare industry in the country has hailed the Union Budget presented in Parliament today by Finance Minister Arun Jaitly.

“My heartiest congratulations to this government for investing in creating a Swasth Bharat by launching the Ayushman Bharat programme. Such ambitious out of the box thinking was a burning need of the hour and the government has not disappointed. The initiative to cover 10 crore families with 5 lakh per family/per year with insurance cover for secondary and tertiary healthcare will be a gamechanger,” said Dr Prathap Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals.'

Welcoming the budget, former IMA chairman Dr KK Aggarwal said, “The creation of 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care closer to the homes of the people. These will provide comprehensive health care including NCDs and maternal and health services. And also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic tests. 1,200 crore allocated for this flagship project. Flagship ‘National health protection scheme’ launched to cover 10 crore poor and vulnerable families meaning 50 crore beneficiaries by providing 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. This will be the world’s largest government funded national health program. These two new initiatives under Ayushman Bharat program will build a new India 2022 and ensure or enhance productivity and wellbeing and avert impoverishment. We are progressing towards universal health coverage”.

Rajiv Mathur, Founder, Critical care Unified said, "It is really encouraging to see that the government has laid strong emphasis on healthcare by announcing the World's Largest Health Protection Plan. We are confident that progressively, similar importance will be given to home healthcare which is fast becoming an important element in the health management value chain"

“We welcome the Government’s move of taking note of air pollution being a concern and extending a scheme /subsidy to encourage industries to reduce their pollution footprint. We look forward to receiving the details of the scheme. However, there is more than the crop residue that causes air pollution and we urge the Government to include tax incentives, grants and progressive policies that could bring the growth impetus to the industrial and domestic air filtration market and also look at reducing customs duties on air purifiers/ high quality filters to be used for lowering dust levels indoors of homes and commercial buildings,” said PKSV Sagar, MD, Camfil India.

According to Debayan Ghosh, founder & president of Epygen Biotech, “Fuelled by the 1,200 crore allocation for healthcare, what is exciting is the 1.5 lakh new healthcare centres that are going to be initiated. For a country that presents the highest number of patients in area of breast cancer and head and neck (oral) cancer cases in the world, these centres needs to be equipped with primary Onco scanning and treatment options. An early detection and treatment option would reduce healthcare cost burden on the Indian exchequer by several thousand crores in terms of disability adjusted life years (DALY). But, biotech industry expectations for dedicated research funds in the area of biosimilars development and regulatory ecosystem remains unattended. India definitely requires financial focus to ramp up this area and craft out its position in the world healthcare scene".

The Healthcare Federation of India (Nathealth) has termed the overall Union Budget 2018-19 including healthcare part as progressive along with some populist measures.   “Nathealh had recommended making health insurance mandatory and National Health Protection Scheme partly covers the insurance needs of the country. However, there are other critical needs which remain unmet- eg. according National Priority Sector Status to healthcare,” said Anjan Bose, Secretary General, Nathealth.

Naresh Jain, CEO, Ziqitza Healthcare, said, “We applaud the announcemements made by the Government in the Union Budget 2018 which has indeed addressed a lot of issues that will help the economy to prosper. It aims in creating the largest healthcare blanket for the biggest democracy of the world.  The Government's initiative of setting up 1.5 lakh health facilities across the country will help bring  healthcare closer to homes of the people, and will enable them to receive medical help within the golden hour hence improving the chances of survival. Granting 50 crore beneficiaries and 10 crore families, 5 lakh rupees  per year cover secondary and tertiary hospital expenses is a breakthrough move and the world's largest government-funded healthcare programme. This will allow the poor to access world class healthcare facilities which was not affordable or available earlier.  Also, the announcement of setting up one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies is great as this will help in training the emergency medical technicians which will, in turn revolutionize the quality of care of the emergency medical response services in the country."

According to Arindam Haldar, CEO, SRL Diagnostics, “The announcement of universal health insurance at Rs. 5 lakh medical cover per year for 10 crore poor families across the country, is an appreciable step. Also, the allocation of Rs. 1,200 crore for health and wellness centres clearly indicates that health sector has received utmost priority in this budget. It would be a welcome step if out-patient diagnostics costs/coverage is covered in this limit. The absence of coverage for outpatient care and pre-existing diseases is an impediment to a comprehensive and affordable health insurance cover.  Also, specific focus on the diagnostics sector would have been of great benefit to supplement primary healthcare machinery”.

 “We feel that this year's budget is aimed at touching the lives of the rural folk and bridge the gap between the rural and urban population. We feel that utilizing 1.5 lakh healthcare centres across the country will bring the health benefits to almost all the households. We also welcome the government's move to provide free essential drugs and diagnosis as it will reduce the burden on people seeking treatments for life threatening diseases. It will also help in promote Universal Health Coverage for all under the National Health Policy. The launch of National Health Protection Scheme with an enhanced Rs. 5 lakh medical insurance and over 10 crore families is going to be a game changer in the healthcare industry. We also welcome the government's new initiative to allocate 600 crore to support tuberculosis patients. Overall, we feel that the budget is going to enhance productivity, better access to healthcare facilities for rural and urban population and generate more jobs in the sector especially for women. We also feel that the budget should have covered the areas of palliative care, chronic and critical illnesses,” said Thiyagarajan, MD, India Home Health Care.

Antony Jacob, CEO, Apollo Munich Health Insurance, said, “India the second most populated country in the world with a sizable population (20%) above the age of 60 years. The aging population has typical healthcare requirements and to fund the same they are keen to seek a health insurance cover. However, post retirement they are worried about funding health insurance premiums. Government’s multiple initiatives announced today to enhance the affordability of buying health insurance for seniors is a welcome move and will go a long way in providing them with a financial cushion in medical adversities”.

According to Sanjay Bhutani, managing director, Bausch and Lomb, India, “The Budget 2018 has been presented in the backdrop of economic growth expectations in the region of 8% in near future and a target to reduce fiscal deficit. The Budget has done well on directing the government’s priority to two important sectors for the economy, Agriculture and health. The proposal to provide insurance cover of Rs.5 lacs to about 100m families and establishing 24 new medical colleges is in right direction to provide quality healthcare services to economically weaker sections of society”.

Commending on the Budget, Sameer Sah, Associate Partner, Khaitan & Co, said, “Increase in tax allowances for health insurance will increase the opportunity on healthcare services delivery. This is an indirect fillip for not only insurance service providers but also healthcare services providers.  The FM highlighted the availability of low cost medicines and the like. The glorifying tenor should lead to a reasonable presumption that there will be further action on the price control front going forward. The National Health Protection Scheme will be an interesting initiative – private players, if allowed to participate in the scheme, will have an additional opportunity to service more patients”.

Accordign to Ravi Virmani, CEO & Founder, Credihealth, "The Union Budget 2018 has taken a step towards making health care more accessible with it's flagship National Health Protection Scheme initiative which provides upto Rs 5 lakh per family per year, for hospitalization. However, the devil is in the detail as the million dollar question that prevails is - will these benefits be cascaded to the common man? On the business front, unfortunately, there has been no special mention of health-tech startups in general. Private healthcare sector should have been provided subsidy and exemption from GST to facilitate the greater spread of business and enable government's push to make healthcare accessible to all. Furthermore, on one hand, the government is talking about going digital, however, it has not supplemented the act by connecting it the digital drive with certain sectors such as healthcare and education which serve to be the backbone for the upliftment of well being of the society as a whole."

Dr Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO, Wadia Hospital said the Healthcare Budget 2018 is ground breaking and will transform the Healthcare industry thus giving it a further boost. The Government has finally focused on what was most essential for Healthcare. Finance Minister Shree Arun Jaitley has announced positive schemes and steps towards improving healthcare in India. Overall this Healthcare budget has provided good reforms in healthcare.