What are your expectations as a private healthcare provider from the forthcoming budget?
Many things can be done by the new government to empower the healthcare sector. Land needs to be made available to hospitals at lower cost and the FSI limit needs to be raised, as in advanced economies. Utilities like power and water should be charged at closer to domestic rates to enable cheaper healthcare delivery. Entry barriers for medical education have to be reduced. Ideally, it should be corporatised. The government should seriously look at exempting healthcare service providers from service tax on property rentals.
The duration of the tax holiday scheme for new hospitals needs to be extended from 5 years to 10 years, including facilities like eye hospitals and day care surgery centres. The benefits of 150% tax deduction for new hospital projects consisting of 100 beds should also be extended to 50-bed specialty centres which are focused on non-communicable diseases like cardio-vascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. The present annual limit of Rs 15,000 towards medical reimbursement for salaried employees, fixed in April 1999, needs to be enhanced to at least Rs 100,000. Finally, hospitals need to be included as an industrial undertaking under Section 72A of the Income Tax Act.
Despite a budget allocation every year and list of health schemes announced, do you feel that these measures have really paid off when it comes to the healthcare inclusion in the country?
While many government-sponsored healthcare schemes are currently in operation, the main problem lies in their execution at the ground level. There is lax in supervision and a general lack of accountability. There is also a perennial shortage of funds. The government schemes can only be availed at the government health facilities where the quality of infrastructure and service delivery is poor. I believe that the way forward to deliver effective healthcare is public-private-people (PPP) partnerships with involvement of all the stakeholders.
In the 12th five year plan, it was decided that the government will spend 2% of GDP on healthcare. Does it look like the target can be achieved?
The government currently spends only 1% of the GDP on healthcare, which is pitifully low. I believe the ideal figure should be close to about 6% if we have to bring the health parameters of the country comparable to western levels. It all depends on the priorities of the government and the state of the economy. With Modi government now in power, I am quite hopeful that the economy will be back on track and healthcare allocation will see a drastic increase.