Union Budget 2018: Big step in quest for universal healthcare

National Health Protection Scheme covering over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage of up to 5 lakh rupees per family per year.

Published: 02nd February 2018 02:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd February 2018 10:22 AM   |  A+A-

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Express News Service

Budget 2018 has been extremely good for healthcare in the country. National Health Protection Scheme covering over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage of up to 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation, will probably be the world’s largest government-funded health care programme, even bigger than the US’ Medicare.

This budget will be a milestone in the journey towards universal health coverage in the country. Providing coverage up to Rs 5 lakh per family, will ensure that poor and middle class will have access to quality health care. The number of patients getting admitted to hospitals will increase hugely, thereby increasing the scale. While this might not effect any change in the cost of healthcare, it will certainly lead to improved efficiency and access to advanced equipment and treatment in Indian hospitals. Health insurance sector will also get a big push, as more investment might be made in healthcare and health insurance sectors.          
Already several states like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and others have attempted providing universal health coverage to all and states like Assam are coming up with similar schemes. Now it is only a matter of learning from existing experiences, addressing the shortcomings if any and scaling up nationally. But caution need to be taken that changes in government and corruption does not interfere in the implementation of this initiative. Government should make use of technology in the implementation of this scheme. Advanced tech like AI, analytics, automated systems and others need to be used to identify beneficiaries, ruling out scope for human intervention and subjectivity, during implementation of the initiative.

Besides health coverage, FM’s announcement of setting up of 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres across India will be very useful especially in rural areas. If these centres can provide preventive health check ups, primary treatment, maternal and child health services, then the stress on secondary and tertiary hospitals will decrease, giving them scope to cater to more number of patients, requiring specialised treatment and care. This will also benefit rural population immensely financially as the expenditure on hospitals for treating diseases is the second leading cause of debt burden for people from rural areas.

Already several private sector players are running healthcare facilities and hospitals in public sector in PPP mode and will be ready to scale them up under the newly announced ‘Ayushman Bharat’ programme. With our expertise and operational efficiency, we can provide quality healthcare to people in rural areas, within the expenditure limits set by government.

Highlights:

The National Health Protection Scheme will provide K5 lakh cover per year to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families in the country.

Under the Ayushman Bharat, the government has also decided to fund K1,200 crore for 1.5 lakh health wellness centres across the nation.

Additional K600 crore to provide nutritional support to all TB patients at the rate of K500 per month for the duration of their treatment.

Affordable medicines through more than 3,000 Jan Aushadhi centres and reduced prices of stents.

Sangita Reddy

Joint MD, Apollo Hospitals Group

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