The upcoming budget should emphasise on increasing the provision for the healthcare industry, focusing on preventive care, targeting greater reach and significantly improving the productivity of private and public healthcare spending. Every common man should have access to quality and affordable healthcare.
The Indian health scenario is beset with a multitude of problems at present. Various economic surveys claim that India has the lowest health spending as proportion of its GDP. The longtime wish for increase in the fund outlay to 6% of GDP is still a dream. In fact, though the number crunchers say that we spend 4.1% of our GDP on health the fact is that 70% of it is from people’s own pockets or private spending meaning that the government spends barely 1% on health. Currently, India falls under the category of countries that spend the lowest on healthcare in the world – 171 out of 175 countries in terms of public health spend. Even the healthcare budget of Nigeria is more than our country! The Indian Government should firmly make a provision for an increase in the healthcare budget. This will ensure that the out of pocket expenditure of patients comes down, thereby reducing the economic burden on the common man.
Given the growing population, changing demographics, disease profile and shift from chronic to lifestyle diseases there is a need for an enormous amount of investment in the coming years to enhance and expand India’s healthcare infrastructure. In most states the government's healthcare infrastructure is not even up to the mark.
If the government wants to achieve its oft-quoted dream of Universal Health coverage – then granting industry status is very important. It would allow hospital groups to expand faster, newer ones to come up, hire more doctors and also allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in healthcare. The industry status would also ease up the process of setting up standard medical institutions and increase public-private partnership in the healthcare sector, which will enable villagers to seek quality and affordable healthcare. Also, the government should allow a tax holiday for at least 5 years for new private hospitals coming up in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities to cater to the semi-urban areas with quality healthcare. This will also encourage advance healthcare facilities in these regions, which will also interest expert doctors to serve these areas. It will also help offer a broad range of acute care inpatient services and extensive outpatient services along with long-term care facility.
Reducing the import duty on medical equipments and devices procured by hospitals in smaller cities will further encourage the delivery of high quality healthcare to semi-urban and far rural areas.
The government should also concentrate on bringing down the cost of drugs mainly for the treatment of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiac diseases which we rank top among the world. This will ensure affordable treatment for all.
Rekha Dubey is Chief Operating Officer at the Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital