Ahead of the Union Budget 2022-23, health industry experts have urged the government to allocate more funds for ensuring universal healthcare access across states as COVID-19 pandemic pulled the lid off the inadequate healthcare system in India.
Several healthcare bodies and consultancy firms have come up with their recommendations on the Budget. Deloitte India has recently released a pre-Budget expectations booklet. The consulting firm has recommended reintroducing tax holidays for rural hospitals with a flexibility to select beneficial years and viability gap funding by the government for setting up hospitals in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.
"This would make this area an attractive space for investment and strengthen country's healthcare infrastructure," said Charu Sehgal, Partner, Life Sciences & Health Care Leader, Deloitte India.
Considering the shortage of medical manpower in the country, the firm has also recommended a weighted deduction of expenses incurred on skill development in the healthcare sector.
"This would facilitate government to achieve its aims of WHO recommended doctor patient ratio of 1:1000 by 2024," said Sehgal.
NATHEALTH, the healthcare federation of India, has also submitted a comprehensive set of recommendations to the Government for the financial Budget 2022-23. The prime objective in a pandemic period should be to catalyse creation of new healthcare infrastructure which is backed by commensurate investments to beef up critical infrastructure in hospitals and diagnostic labs and ambulatory/home care infrastructure outside hospitals.
Experts argue that an investment into healthcare will have a multiplier effect on economy and will require creating an ecosystem to accelerate approval process for global innovation around COVID-19, address the long- and short-term structural gaps and fast track the recovery of healthcare sector.
"The pandemic brought about a radical shift in the way we look at medical emergencies, while also exposing the structural gaps in our health system. Evidently, healthcare is under-served and under-consumed. India needs a roadmap to create an inclusive and resilient medical infrastructure which can be accomplished only by raising investment (both public and private)," Dr. Shravan Subramanyam, Senior Vice President NATHEALTH and Managing Director, Wipro GE Healthcare, said.
"COVID-19 pandemic also necessitated self-reliance for India, 'Atmanirbhar Bharat'. For Indian MedTech sector to be viable, NATHEALTH recommends waiving off the duty and CESS and releasing sectorial payment dues, to free up the working capital for investments in inventory of critical spare and lifesaving equipment. To scale-up and move towards Universal Healthcare Coverage, collaborative efforts from stakeholders across public and private sector will be pivotal," he added.
Going forward, healthcare experts also said that they expect the government to look at increasing the healthcare expenditure above 2.5 per cent of the GDP and extend the National Health Protection Scheme to all migrant workers, in addition to the BPL population.
"The need of the hour is to improve healthcare funding with subsidised loans, incentivising CSR investment by making it a tax-deductible expense, and allocating land for new hospitals," argued Debajit Sensharma, Group CFO, Paras Healthcare.
"The government should also look at allocating a budget to include trauma centers in Primary Health Centers (PHCs) and Community Health Centers (CHCs) as trauma systems result in high financial costs. Our country has the youngest workforce, but with dropping fertility rates and increasing mutations, there will be a huge spike in healthcare expenses over the next couple of decades," he added.
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