Healthcare industry bats for infra push & Make in India for expensive consumables to stall imports in Interim Budget

Nandita Vijay, BengaluruWednesday, January 30, 2019, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Indian healthcare industry is keen to see that the Union government in its Interim Budget to be presented on February 1, 2019 pushes for infrastructure development and Make in India for expensive consumables so that imports can be stalled.
Even as the government indicated that the Interim Budget would focus on the deliverables of the Ayushman Bharat scheme, the sector is hoping that investments in primary care are on the agenda.
Stating that Ayushman Bharat is a positive step, Dr. BS Ajaikumar, chairman and CEO, Healthcare Global Enterprises pointed out that it needs to accommodate tertiary care in its scheme of things. Currently, tertiary service providers will be forced to cut cost at every level to cater to Ayushman patients and the outcome might be affected. Therefore there is a need to substantially increase healthcare allocation. India’s per person average healthcare spend is US$ 85 which is amongst the lowest compared to other countries.
Manish Sacheti, CFO, Ziqitza Healthcare stated that healthcare services should be ‘zero-rate’ under GST provisions. Emergency healthcare needs immediate fund allocation. While state governments have introduced bike ambulances, boat ambulances and mobile medical units to be accessed in rural areas, these should also be the Centre’s prerogative.
Dr. Somesh Mittal, CEO, Vikram Hospital, Bengaluru said that government should introduce measures to improve the quality and affordability. For example, introduction of Artificial Intelligence and predictive analytics for patient monitoring will add to significant financial savings. Lower taxes for private healthcare providers with affordable insurance premium for patients need to be looked into. Going by the shortage of doctors, additional funds to set up new medical colleges along with trauma and primary healthcare centers on highways could help improve survival rates during road accidents.
Given the significant rise in cost inflation index in general which is 70 per cent over the last 5 years and healthcare inflation in particular, the medical reimbursement deduction needs to be revised and the annual limit needs to be enhanced from the current 15,000 per annum. Largely this budget should focus on benefits to employers to invest in employee healthcare and preventive medical treatments, said Munira Loliwala, business head – EMPI, Teamlease Services.
Leo Mavely, founder and CEO, Axio Biosolutions noted that 2018 brought in big promises, with the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme. The ban on e-pharmacies and creation of angel tax for healthcare start-ups were the topics of national deliberations too. Further, the recent Allied Healthcare Professionals Bill 2018 is a step in the right direction. Regulating and standardising education, training and services of allied health professionals is critical, especially in emergency care, so the government must address this.
The biggest challenge is healthcare delivery in rural areas. This is where healthcare start-ups can bring smarter, accessible and proactive care; showcasing the best way to improve quality and control costs. Therefore government should focus on supporting this, said Ishiqa Multani, executive vice-president, Sagar Hospitals.
According to Dr. Sudarshan Ballal, chairman, Manipal Hospitals, the government needs to heavily invest in preventive, primary care and promotion of wellness. This along with infrastructure of public healthcare, training doctors, nurses and paramedical are mandated. Government must look to stop imports of pricey consumables and equipment and encourage Make in India to subsidize cost of healthcare.