Union Budget Expectations 2022- Healthcare Sector

Dr Alok Roy-

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By Dr Alok Roy, Chair, FICCI Health Services Committee and Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals

COVID 19 has highlighted the significance of a robust healthcare system in the country and proved that you are only as strong as your healthcare systems. The healthcare sector, ravaged by an ongoing pandemic, demands increased outlays in healthcare expenditure, investment in research & innovation, and funds for the development of suitable resources to strengthen the monitoring system of the public health system as a whole.

Union Budget 2022-23 has to be a forward looking budget as we are battling with a two year old plus pandemic affecting lives and livelihoods. This year’s Budget shall redefine India as it makes steps to emerge out from the crisis towards a path of sustainable growth.

The Centre’s Budgetary allocation to the healthcare sector should be increased to at least 2.5 per cent of the GDP to bridge several gaps that currently exist in the system. Further, tech driven-innovative healthcare solutions have played a pivotal role in fighting mankind’s biggest health crisis and healthcare providers have embraced these solutions to solve for accessibility. This year’s budget should focus on encouraging these solutions by way of tax benefits/ tax holidays and even establishing a healthcare innovation fund.

Though all our focus is on the COVID-19 pandemic at the moment, it is critical to increase spending on preventive healthcare and wellness. Ayushman Bharat is undeniably a positive step toward achieving the goal of universal healthcare; however, more funding is required to ensure its long-term success.

Healthcare funding through subsidized loans specially in Tier II & III cities need to be provided for as this shall help to reactivate the healthcare infrastructure sector which will further boost other supporting industries.

Identifying areas of for PPP models and a robust framework for PPP could help boost private sector investment, augment public capacity while improving efficiency. Government must accord due importance to operational viability gap funding, over &b above the capital VGF. This aspect is missing and that’s why most of the hospitals are unable to utilise the capital funding options provided by the banks.

This pandemic has also necessitated for a more self-reliant India, —Atmanirbhar Bharat’. For Indian MedTech sector to be viable & sustaining, there has to be a waiver off the duty and CESS, releasing sectoral payment dues, to free up the working capital for investments in critical spare and lifesaving equipment. There is a huge scope for the medical device industry to flourish. Currently, India is among top 20 markets for medical devices globally. The market is expected to reach $50 billion in 2025. However, India currently imports 80 per cent of medical devices requirements. More emphasis should be placed in creating a commensurate ecosystem which will drive manufacturing within the country. More medical device parks like IT parks need to be built.

Reduction in GST and import duties is top on the agenda and Government must explore to simplify the FDI in healthcare sector. A mandatory/tax-incentivized health saving plan/scheme from early ages, private health insurance reforms to increase enrolment, and provide comprehensive cover for all the aspects of senior care.

We have seen in these last two years how the pandemic is resurfacing with different variants. This calls for a budget specifically dedicated for Covid19’s Research & Development (R&D) which will also guides the country in case of any such future pandemics.

We are hopeful that this year’s budget will show us the way on sustaining the economy to an 8 percent plus growth path after the slump of the pandemic.