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India hails healthcare scheme for 10 crore poor families

Feb 02, 2018

The Indian government has reiterated its commitment to ‘Universal Healthcare’ and has announced flagship schemes to provide better healthcare to people at bottom of the pyramid.

New Delhi: Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a slew of measures for farmers and the vulnerable which includes a new health insurance scheme for the poor.

Civil society and corporate world react to government’s move of allocating Rs 1200 crores to the National Health Policy and initiative of providing health care cover of Rs 5 lakh every year to 10 crore poor families. OneWorld brings comprehensive post- budget 2018-19 reactions on the health front.

Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India

A mere 11.5 per cent increase in budgetary allocations for health from Rs. 47,353 crore from previous year to Rs. 52,800 crores is disappointing and discouraging especially with the announcement of schemes that require large sums of money.

The budgetary allocations are clearly mismatched with the stated policies goals despite the political commitment to increase investments in health (National Health Policy 2017), family planning, and achieve better health outcomes (SDG Goals). The continuing trend in lower budgetary allocations for health reinforce the fact that, while there is the intention and attempt to improve the health status in the country, the financial commitment continues to be missing for translating these goals into action.

The allocation for family welfare schemes under central sector schemes/projects, which is meant for procurement and distribution of contraceptives have increased only marginally by 2 per cent (Rs. 770 crore) over the budget (Rs. 755 crore) last year. This will be insufficient not only to meet the future demand but will also fall short of the current demand for contraceptives and for improving the much needed quality of services.

The Ayushman Bharat initiative and the National Health Protection Scheme announced by the Finance Minister is a welcome move for the country’s healthcare development as they intend to significantly reduce the cost of healthcare borne by the households on medicines, diagnostics and hospitalisation. While both these schemes are conceptualised with good intentions, the government has to match up with a strong regulatory framework and clear financial outlays and implementation plans.

While universal access to health care services remains a distant dream with the current allocation strategies of the government, resource prioritisation is the key to effectively utilise the available budgets for primary health care. To quote an example, prioritising critical elements of reproductive health care for instance can reduce large expenses incurred on incentives and compensation. Rather, these amounts can be used more productively to improve the quality of care and strengthen health service delivery.

Pavan Choudary, Chairman & DG – Medical Technology Association of India(MTaI).

The government has reiterated its commitment to ‘Universal Healthcare’ and has announced flagship schemes to provide better healthcare to people at bottom of the pyramid – National Health Policy and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. These schemes will expand the reach of basic healthcare facilities in the country. While access to basic healthcare is an important determinant of Universal Healthcare, another critical factor is quality of healthcare. The latter requires access to advance healthcare technology for best health management of patients. The government should have looked at incentivising import of advance medical devices into the country by bringing down the customs duty.

There is also a need to undo the un-nuanced price control imposed by NPPA as the move is leading to unintended consequences on the healthcare ecosystem without any significant reduction in the cost of patient. The current price control regime has also lead to a drastic fall in foreign direct investment in healthcare sector from $417 million in April-September 2017 against $173 million in the same period in 2016, a reduction of 59%.

Under the current ecosystem where more than 70% of medical devices have to be imported from abroad, a balance approach to reduce cost to patient is trade margin rationalization for distributors, gradation in pricing thereby allowing a higher price bracket for superior medical devices, and lower customs duty. These measures will reduce the cost to patient without dis-incentivizing technical innovation by medical device manufacturers." - Mr. Pavan Choudary, Chairman & DG, MtaI.

Dharmarajan, Executive Director, Centre for Digital Financial Inclusion

Government’s plan to develop 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres is a very refreshing plan, the more because it seeks to woo private sector contribution in the form of CSR and philanthropic funds to adopt these centres. It will be interesting if the hybrid funding could also operate in reverse with the Government subsidising such Centres as are professionally run using CSR and philanthropic funds. "

G Srinivasan, Chairman and Managing Director – The New India Assurance

The National Health Protection Scheme announced is a great move to bring

health insurance to almost 40% of the population and is move towards Universal health insurance . The scheme is significant as it provides Rs 5 lakhs cover to the family for secondary and tertiary treatments.

Niraj Jain, CEO & Principal Officer, Lambach Insurance Brokers

The launching of the flagship healthcare scheme to cover 10 crore poor families is a great initiative. However, a lot will depend on its execution and implementation. The government is being clear on basic health insurance for indian families. This is a good move and will certainly go a long way in boosting the Indian Insurance Sector.

The merger of Oriental Insurance, National Insurance & United India Insurance is another good move which will not only stabilize the three public sector units but also the Insurance sector on a whole. The Insurance sector has been bleeding largely because of improper under writing. This initiative will also increase the risk taking appetite of the merged entity which is pretty less on an individual level.

Karni S Arha, Chief Financial Officer, Aviva India

The National Health Scheme of the government is a great initiative and will act as a catalyst in elevating the insurance sector and in turn the health care services for the uninsured and underinsured population. Also overall Health insurance deductions increasing to 50k and increase in exemption limit from Rs 10K to Rs 50K for Senior Citizens is a big positive move to promote health care and safety amongst the most deserving.

Roopam Asthana, CEO & Whole Time Director, Liberty Videocon General Insurance

This is clearly a budget focused on the rural and weaker sections of India. The proposals made in this budget relating to our fellow citizens in the rural economy are very well thought through as they cover the entire spectrum from hiking the MSP to creating the infrastructure such that the small and marginal farmers can also realize the benefits of this through appropriate market mechanism.

There is also a large thrust to creating more non-agri jobs in the rural markets and this is a huge positive as combined with increased realizations from agriculture this will lead to slowdown of migration of rural youth to cities for a living. More jobs will also be created by increased investments in infra projects across the country.

Specifically on the insurance front, I am very excited by the National Health Protection Scheme which will provide a health cover of Rs.500,000- to 10 crore families from the weaker sections. Push for greater penetration of the Prime Minister schemes for life and personal accident insurance amongst Jan Dhan account holders is also going towards increased risk mitigation for the weaker sections of the society. Merger of 3 PSU general insurance companies followed by disinvestment is a positive move as it will create a company with large scale that will drive value. Increase in tax exemption relating to health insurance for senior citizens is a step in the right direction as our demography will age quickly over the medium term.

Overall, the budget addresses the farmers and more vulnerable sections of our society and strengthening them financially will help balance the overall development of the Indian economy and thereby benefit all of us.

Prema Sagar, Founder Trustee, Genesis Foundation

The finance minister in his budget speech today has rightly pointed that a only “Swasth Bharat can be a Samriddha Bharat”. Genesis Foundation welcomes the government’s move of allocating Rs 1200 crores to The National Health Policy that focusses on developing a comprehensive health care eco-system for all.

The announced 1.5 lakh health centres have the potential to impact the health and wellness index of this country. In addition the government’s initiative of providing health care cover of Rs 5 lakh every year to 10 crore poor families is a step in the right direction.

In India, every year, approximately 1.8–2 Lakh children are born with Congenital Heart Disorders, approximately a third to a quarter (∼50,000) would need early intervention to survive the first year of life. If access to screening, early diagnosis and treatment is available, the baby has a 95% chance of survival with good long-term outcome. Genesis Foundation’s goal is to collaborate with these health centres and work closely with the government to give the little hearts a chance to live a healthy and happy life.

Ashok Varma, Partner and Leader - Social Sector, PwC India

Nearly four time increase in allocation for health insurance through National Health Protection Scheme is one of the biggest highlights of the budget. Most of the social sector schemes have seen a marginal increase in allocation keeping with trend of actual expenditure. There is no major surprises or radical policy changes in the announcements made.

Man Mohan Gupta, Mentor from MyMedicineBox

It is for sure if Indians are attending good health, we can build strong nation by increasing productivity as well as spending less on medical expenditure.

More healthcare facilities will be available in neighborhood by opening 1.5 lacs health and wellness centers. When we know that facilities are available instantly, we feel confident and as psychologically lots of problems are automatically resolved.

Every family is more worried about healthcare expenditure on seniors. Now get more relaxations. Medicines will be cheaper by way of relaxations in duties and taxations and cash support for various diseases.

Since, I am more associated with e-pharmacy or Health Tech online medical store; I believe Digital India and ePayment system will help to provide medicines cheaper by offering Generic medicines of high standard and high quality.

Gagan Rai, Managing Director & CEO, NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Limited

This is a budget for the masses due to several reasons. Firstly, 10 crore families will receive health insurance cover. Secondly, thrust on education by teachers’ training on a mass scale. Thirdly, agriculture has been encouraged and focus would be given to double farmer income by 2022. We also welcome the measures that the Government of India plans to undertake to hasten India's movement to a digital economy.

There will be significant use of Aadhaar numbers even for the businesses, as all business entities will be allotted an Aadhaar like unique ID number.

The Government has also announced various benefits for students and the education sector in India. This will give focus to digital boards. Allocation of 1 lakh crore rupees in promoting learning based outcomes and research sector will give a further boost to education sector.

Overall, it is a well-thought and far-sighted budget. The masses will greatly benefit from a new ecosystem in infrastructure leveraged on the thrust of using technology as the spine for new India.

Mayank Bathwal, Chief Executive Officer – Aditya Birla Health Insurance Company Limited

The announcement towards building a holistic healthcare protection ecosystem is a revolutionary move undertaken by the government. The health insurance claims in the country today contributes to nearly 5 percent of the total healthcare spends, clearly reflecting that most of the citizens in the country are either under-insured or un-insured.

The announcement of National Healthcare protection scheme reinforces government’s commitment towards providing healthcare protection solutions and mitigating the financial uncertainties of vulnerable families in the country. Additionally, FM’s proposal to raise a deduction under health insurance premium to Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 1 lakh for senior citizens with critical illnesses, along with the allocation of additional funds under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna will provide a fresh impetus to the adoption of protection solutions in the country.

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