With forthcoming elections, Mr. Piyush Goyal presented interim Budget for the FY 2019-20. Though the background of the Budget was Elections (which will take place in next couple of months), the interim Budget emphasizes on the Government’s vision to impart higher and sustained economic growth by utilizing the capital in building infrastructure, rural industrialization, farm production, safe and clean environment, outer space programs and creation of Digital India.1

In fact, the players of healthcare sector were forced to the edges of their seat with excitement of the Budget being presented by the interim finance minister. Healthcare sector was given due attention in the Budget, and was highlighted within 29 minutes of the speech as “In the last five years, we have seen a massive improvement in healthcare services with the launch of the world’s largest healthcare scheme Ayushman Bharat Lakhs of poor and middle class have benefited from cheap medicines now available”. He also added, “The government aims to create a ‘Healthy India’ with distress-free and comprehensive wellness system for all” and accentuated that this is the ninth dimension of Government’s vision for 2030.2

The Finance Minister, in his 2 hours long speech, talked about the reforms made by the NDA Government in past, including the launch of the world’s largest healthcare program, Ayushman Bharat Yojna, which aims to provide healthcare to nearly 50 crore people and thus reducing out-of-pocket expenditures by families of economically poor section.2

This Budget increased the outlay for healthcare sector by 16.65% (Rs 96,139.27 crore) on healthcare and indicated towards the importance of this budget in shaping the future of Ayushman Bharat and Indian Healthcare system. In order to achieve the aim of “Healthy India”, the Centre plans on spending Rs 33,199.65 crore for Medical and Public Health, and allocated Rs 43,585.35 to the states (and union territories) government as grants-in aid. The Government also highlighted the need of special healthcare benefits to the North-eastern states and allocated Rs 6,440.52 crore (6.36% more than expenditure during 2018-19) for healthcare sector in Northeast. 3

With an aim to improve our nation’s medical facilities, in addition to existing 21 AIIMS (either operating or being set-up) across the country, the Government has announced setting up the 22nd AIIMS in Haryana. Also, the Department of Health Research received a sum of Rs 3,374.65 crore (184.07 crores more than the expenditure in FY 2018-19). 3

Our country is witnessing an increase in incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (CVD), stroke, cancer etc. As per Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the estimated proportion of deaths due to NCDs has increased from 37.09% (in 1990) to 61.8% in 2016.4 The current infrastructure is in its developing stages, and appears to be insufficient as these non-communicable diseases need long-term care and management. In many cases, artificial life support or long-term rehabilitation might be required which leads to the extra burden to already ailing healthcare infrastructure. This situation appealed for adopting healthcare at home and various technologies like portable assessment devices, wearable devices and remote monitors along with HD video-conferencing have allowed providing nearly seventy percent of hospital services at home. Many healthcare companies have utilized this opportunity and are delivering quality care at home and have changed the dynamics of management of chronic diseases. Healthcare at home is the future of healthcare system and will play a very significant role in meeting the objectives of Ayushman Bharat scheme.

However, the centre has truncated the Budget under the head of flexible pool for NCDs, injury and trauma (from Rs 1,004.67 crore in FY 2018-19 to Rs 717 crore). Also, the budget for national program for prevention and control of cancer, diabetes, CVD and stroke has been curtailed from Rs 295 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 175 in 2019-20. The Budget also ignored the schemes and programs related to reproductive and child health. The outlay for routine immunization program and pulse polio immunization program has also been reduced from Rs 7,411.40 crore (in 2018-19) to Rs 6,758.46 in the current interim budget. Though the amount allocated to the above mentioned expenditures heads was cut short, the overall budget for the healthcare sector increased significantly.3

Nevertheless, this Budget allocated Rs 2254.76 crore to the Ministry of AYUSH.3 With this Budget let’s hope that we would get a step closer to providing Universal Health Coverage and support the traditional medical systems in order to provide world-class healthcare.

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References:

  1. Budget at a Glance 2019-20
  2. Interim Budget 2019-2020 Speech by Piyush Goyal
  3. The Finance Bill, 2019
  4. India Health of the Nation’s States Report 2017

Written byMs. Udita Chandra

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