The healthcare ecosystem has seen significant evolution in the past few years, both in terms of services as well as technology. The bulk of the credit for that goes to the Modi 1.0 government. Between FY15 and FY19, a whopping Rs 2.11 lakh crore was allocated to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in total while the actual expenditure during this period stood at Rs 2.13 lakh crore.
The government consistently overspent by 2-9 per cent in the last four years. However, in its first year in office, the government only utilised around 83 per cent of the apportioned amount in Budget 2014.
In comparison, the total allocation to this sector under the Manmohan Singh government (UPA-II) was much lower at Rs 1.44 lakh crore, of which only Rs 1.26 lakh crore was utilised over its five-year term till 2014. Put another way, against an average allocation of a little over Rs 28,931 crore, the average actual expenditure stood at only around Rs 25,331 crore or 87.5 per cent of the budget estimates. In fact, underspending on this vital sector peaked at over 18 per cent in FY13.
The Modi 2.0 government is now looking to better its first term record. To begin with, the Interim Budget has set aside Rs 63,298 crore for this sector, up nearly 16 per cent from last year. Budget 2018 had unveiled the world's largest government-funded health care programme, Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM).
According to stakeholders, the expectation this year from Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is more on the allocation and implementation of this grand dream. The Interim Budget has earmarked Rs 6,400 crore for the flagship scheme in FY20, an increase of Rs 4,000 crore from the last budget.
Earlier this month, Sitharaman held a pre-budget consultation meeting with representatives of Social Sector Groups. The recommendations in the health space include expansion of healthcare infrastructure, provision of free drugs and diagnostic facilities, rationalisation of taxes on medical devices and increased budgetary allocation towards nutrition of infants and pregnant mothers, among others.