Experts put forth their views on the upcoming Budget 2022
Saransh Chaudhary, President, Global Critical Care, Venus Remedies and CEO, Venus Medicine Research Centre
The Union Budget should lay a framework to make India the pharmacy of the world with focus on self-sufficiency. The government should go about it by announcing incentives and grants for cost-intensive research, particularly in critical care segments like antimicrobial resistance. The government should enable our R&D-driven pharma companies to compete with top global innovators and secure a significant market share by offering interest subsidies and lower GST on clinical trials and research activities, giving tax concessions to exporters and restoring weighted tax deduction under Section 35(2AB). The finance minister should also earmark funds to strengthen the pharma supply chain and distribution infrastructure and integrate it with latest digital technologies.
Chander Shekhar Sibal, Senior Vice President, Medical Division, Fujifilm India
We’re looking forward to building and balancing the country’s healthcare infrastructure with the government’s support as we enter the third year of the pandemic. We hope that the budget delivers a special focus on healthcare to mitigate the devastation from the coronavirus. For this, it will be pertinent to have concrete policies that ensure accessible and affordable healthcare. It would be great to see the allocation of funds within the states as per policy. The timeline of fund clearance should be reduced to clear roadblocks due to a lack of funds.
Raktim Chattopadhyay, Founder & CEO, Esperer Nutrition
Common people of the nation expect deduction on medical expenses, tax exemption on annuity income, and a hike in basic exemption cap. So I feel, to achieve the same we must stand strong with the government and encourage to not compromise on capital expenditure. Because the fear remains, when the emphasis is on controlling the fiscal deficit, the axe always falls on capital expenditure. We must balance our aspirations and reality when looking at the budget critically.
Dr GSK Velu, CMD, Trivitron Healthcare and Neuberg Diagnostics
- A tax break for 10 years for setting up facilities in upcoming economic zones, MedTech Parks and MedTech Manufacturing facilities, similar to the tax break given for Pharma – API facilities at Baddi, Himachal Pradesh.
Increase in customs duty for finished medical equipment/devices. Reduction in Customs duty for components and SKD imports to promote manufacturing in India.
- Government grants to support R&D and manufacturing facility setup for important medical equipment like IVD instruments, Cath Lab, CT Scanners, MRI scanners, Ultrasound, Patient Monitor, Ventilators etc.
- Tax breaks and incentives for private healthcare infrastructure creation in Tier III and IV towns. This will enable healthcare reach to the deepest level in the country.
- Tax Exemption Limits have to be appropriately increased for all classes.
- 1 to 2 per cent GST for health services to avail GST input credits by health services industry. GST has to be reduced significantly across all products and services, to spur consumer spending. Healthcare services have to be brought under the GST regime with a 1 per cent levy so that they are able to avail the input credit available, which go to waste now, resulting in a higher cost of services. If this is done, the overall cost of Healthcare services will actually come down benefitting a larger section of the people.
Dr Srikanth Sola, Director, CEO and Co-founder, Devic Earth
India has nine out of the 10 most polluted cities in the world. But our country has only 800 or so air quality monitoring stations, almost all of which are in the cities. We hope that the Finance Minister will address this critical issue in the Union Budget. Monitoring and measurement is the key and the first step towards improvement. India’s projected need is 1,600 to 4,000 air quality monitoring stations spread across tier I-III cities and rural areas. These will enable data-driven policies to create tangible improvements in air quality in the shortest possible time. We also expect the government to facilitate conducive policy initiatives like single window clearance to promote technologies and initiatives to combat air pollution menace and provide the citizen clean and healthy air to breathe.
At ~Rs. 74,602 crore, the budgetary allocation for healthcare in FY2022 dropped by 9.8 per cent if compared to the revised estimates for FY2021. The funds earmarked for healthcare, as a percentage of GDP and beds per 10,000 population, continues to be lower for India against most developing nations. Given the ongoing pandemic, ICRA expects a sizeable increase in grants to the sector in the forthcoming budget. Higher allocation is also necessitated to enable the government to achieve its target spend of 2.5 per cent of GDP on healthcare by 2025, from the current sub 1.5 per cent levels.
With a resurgence in Omicron cases, ICRA expects partial cost towards children’s vaccination and booster shots for the adult population to be a part of the upcoming budgetary allotment towards the sector.
To boost investments in the sector, tax incentives for private sector investments in modernising medical facilities and developing greenfield hospitals will be a welcome step. Further, considering the low doctors to people and nurses to people ratio (aggregate density of health workers is 23 per 10,000 population, which is significantly lower than that recommended by WHO), increased allocation towards training medical personnel, in addition to improving infrastructure in tier-II and tier-III cities, would be a favourable move.
More than 65 per cent of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API)/ Key Starting Material (KSM) required by pharma companies are imported from China. Recent events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic leading to supply chain disruptions coupled with geopolitical issues, have brought into focus the risk of such high import dependence. Last year, the GoI had announced a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme of Rs 150 billion for API manufacturers, covering around 53 APIs, which are critical in terms of import dependence on China. Similar incentives for other import-dependent APIs will boost local manufacturing and reduce dependence on imports.
Medicines are taxed under four categories—nl, 5 per cent, 12 per cent and 18 per cent. Certain life-saving medicines are taxed at a nil rate, while the rest are taxed at 5 per cent. Most medicines fall under the 12 per cent GST slab. Last year, the GoI had reduced the GST rate on various COVID-19 treatment medicines and also brought down the GST rate for certain cancer treatment medicines and exempted certain other life-saving medicines. Similar incremental changes will increase affordability and higher consumption of such drugs leading to higher demand.
Being research-intensive, the pharma sector incurs a significant amount on R&D. Providing fiscal (higher tax deductions) and non-fiscal incentives for R&D expenses will support higher investments in developing new drugs. Investments in novel and speciality drugs are subject to a higher risk of failure leading to risk averseness. Higher tax incentives for R&D spending will incentivise Indian players to spend more, thereby providing impetus to newer research initiatives.
GANDHARV ROY, COO, MEDICA SUPERSPECIALTY HOSPITAL
Budget 2022-23 is expected to address the ground realities of healthcare and the key components such as research & innovation, digitisation, public–private partnerships, tax reforms and research. Budget 2022-23 needs to address the low per capita spend ($3) on indigenous medical devices since there is a significant dearth in indigenous manufacturing, and imports constitute over a significant percentage of the high-end medical device market. If the government could set up a system to facilitate early validation of MedTech devices and services, it could exponentially accelerate the development and deployment of various technologies in healthcare. Tax break for 10 years for setting up facilities in upcoming economic zones, MedTech Parks & MedTech Manufacturing facilities is one of the primary needs.
Government should also look at an increase in customs duty of finished medical equipment/devices and subsequent reduction in customs duty for components and SKD imports to promote ‘Make in India’. Reintroducing tax holidays for rural hospitals with the flexibility to select beneficial years and viability gap funding by the government will incentivise private healthcare infrastructure creation in Tier III and IV towns.
We expect the government to look at increasing the healthcare expenditure above 2.5 per cent of the GDP. We are expecting an announcement of 10-12 per cent rise in healthcare expenditure which will enable the much-needed attention that healthcare requires now.
Healthcare services must be brought under GST regime with 1 per cent levy so that they are able to avail the input credit available. The government needs to bring more life-saving drugs at the lowest rate of GST, “zero-rating” of GST for health care services, this will help achieve the twin objectives of keeping the credit chain intact and will ensure that the tax is not loaded on to the cost of healthcare services making way for more affordable healthcare.
Dr Angeli Misra, Founder & Director, Lifeline Laboratory
To combat the pandemic crisis, increased fund allocation in every aspect of the healthcare sector, a reduction in GST and import duty for critical care equipment and components (86 per cent of which are dependent on imports) as an initiative for government support for the medical devices manufacturing industry, more funding to boost the development of the digital health sector and the production of point-of-care equipment can bring the highest level of quality care to the interiors and remote areas of India. In addition, the establishment of more medical education institutions and imparting of advanced training to enhance the skills of healthcare workers is of considerable significance and the need of the hour.
Dr H Sudarshan Ballal, Chairman, Manipal Hospitals
Increased allocation for healthcare since we still have a lot of ground to cover in our expenditure on healthcare. Spend on strengthening our primary healthcare system which is the backbone of healthcare in India, public healthcare, preventive healthcare in addition to nutrition in children, and aggressive vaccination campaigns to include COVID-19 vaccination for all. We also need to strengthen the public healthcare system by upgrading the infrastructure and personnel at government hospitals. Specifically, strengthen paediatric care, and pediatric intensive care, along with setting up of training programmes and teams of intensive care doctors in government hospitals including in adult intensive care.Invest in more diagnostic labs across the country which was a necessity during the current pandemic. Set up more medical colleges especially in underserved areas and upgrade district hospitals to be the teaching hospitals for these colleges. Invest in technology to bridge the rural-urban divide in healthcare and make healthcare available for all in the country by expanding our universal healthcare schemes.
Mahendra Patel, MD, Lincoln Pharmaceuticals
The government is required to stimulate growth and boost investment with confidence from both the public and private sectors in the Union Budget 2022. Special emphasis is required for job creation, lifting consumption and sentiments and building infrastructure in priority sectors – Education, Health, Rural & MSME. The healthcare sector will look for higher allocation towards production linked incentive schemes to encourage capacity expansion of sensitive APIs, complex excipients, drug intermediates etc. Interest subsidies and restoration of weighted tax deduction u/s 35(2AB) to encourage innovation and R&D are some of the key measures required for the sector. We need to create an ecosystem to encourage innovation and research in the country which is ignored to an extent. Funds allocated for healthcare as a percentage of GDP at 1.5 per cent continue to be lower compared to most developing nations. Keeping in mind the current pandemic situation, it is need of the hour for the government to increase the allocation towards health infrastructure across the entire infrastructure chain, specifically in Tier II and Tier III cities and immunisation. Higher allocation to the sector is also necessary to enable the government to achieve its target to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on healthcare by 2025.
Sahil Dharia, Founder & CEO, Soothe Healthcare
Simplification of regulations especially with respect to unlocking Land, labour and capital use will create an overall ‘encouraging’ environment for entrepreneurs to take risks and business to thrive given the large domestic opportunity. Make in India is the pointed edge of that weapon that gives jobs, builds capacity, reduces our fiscal deficit and maybe even helps build technological prowess in time. These are all essential ingredients if India wants to project as a global power.
A major simplification drive, for instance, a flat GST rate will go a long way in creating an impetus for a cyclical bull run in the industry. Though manufacturing-based companies in India appreciate no Zero GST on sanitary pads, it is still significantly affected by high raw material and manufacturing costs. Hence, we look for some relaxation in this area.
To promote Make in India, the government should encourage more investment in non-tech companies. An environment where small entrepreneurs can get loans without having to mortgage any personal asset will drive the growth of new businesses as well as expansion of existing businesses and unlock the potential of our robust trading & manufacturing sector.
Aditya Sharma, CEO, Affordplan
Special attention should be paid to innovations that help households on the brink of poverty deal with their healthcare expenses, for both chronic as well as sudden or acute conditions. The recent Startup Day announcement is a positive first step for fintech and healthcare startups looking to provide ready solutions to these households.
RN Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India
This year, we are expecting the government to allocate a suitable budget for the healthcare sector where we can build a system where eye health services are accessible for everyone despite the pandemic situation in the future.
Srikanth Kandikonda, CFO, ManipalCigna
Access to health insurance can help more people become part of the healthcare system and get quality treatment. Thus, we are hopeful in the upcoming Union budget 2022-23, the government looks at considering a 5 per cent GST tax slab on health insurance premium along with commodities such as food items to make it more affordable for the people living in the middle-income group to get access to quality healthcare care they need. As people age, many elders may need to cope with some of the other health conditions and would need protection against any untoward hospitalisation expenses on account of a large number of diseases including critical illnesses. Here’s where the GST rate cut from 18 per cent to 5 per cent on the health insurance premiums will be a huge respite especially for senior citizens who are struggling to meet the rising healthcare costs. The abolition or at least a sizeable reduction in the GST on all personal lines of products – from the existing 18 per cent to 5 per cent will encourage more people to buy health insurance. Further, the increase in the limit of tax deduction in 80D can help boost the overall health insurance penetration in the country. Therefore, in the budget ahead we expect the government to announce initiatives to increase the limit for health cover under section 80D and GST rate cut, to help millions of people access quality healthcare at an affordable cost.
Amol Naikawadi, Joint – MD, Indus Health Plus
An approach to integrate technologies to make healthcare more accessible should be the top priority for the sector. And hence, we will see a rise in investment in this domain. We may see a special budget allocation for preventive healthcare, and we recommend including a separate tax exemption element in 80D with a limit of Rs 30,000 per person annually for preventive health checkups including genetic testing for self & family. This will encourage people to go for regular health screening and help us make India a ‘Healthy India’. In addition, special tax incentives for preventative healthcare should be provided to organisations and institutions on a per-employee basis, incentivising them to invest in their employees’ health and well-being. Furthermore, a zero-rating GST on healthcare services is required to minimise costs for healthcare providers. As a result, the benefit will be passed on to the end consumers, lowering the overall cost of medical treatment.
Dr Roy Patankar, Director, Zen Multispecialty Hospital, Chembur, Mumbai
Telemedicine and online consultation have become a boon during these unprecedented times. Many telehealth platforms have come up during the pandemic that offers primary healthcare at home. For a year, lakhs of people have been dependent on video or telephone calls with doctors for discussing their health issues. Another important component is health insurance. There has been a high level of awareness regarding health insurance. Thus, this year’s health budget should include this factor too. There should be certain guidelines for aggregator platforms that have been operating during the pandemic to ensure smooth functioning. The recent advancements in Artificial intelligence (AI) can allow in early detection and treatment of critical patients and the budget should include these factors. The budget should also concentrate on the mental health of the paramedic staff. Certain provisions should be made for the economically lower class to seek affordable treatment. Thirst should be on building infrastructure in B and C grade towns with special funding initiatives, higher depreciation outside metros and low-cost funding to hospitals with more than 100 beds. Special incentives and funding should be done to set up oxygen generation plants. CSR initiatives should be encouraged to fund vaccination.
Dr Bipin Jibhkate, Consultant critical care medicine and ICU Director, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road
This year, there should be more allocations for the health sector. Around 6 per cent of the budget should be allocated to healthcare. The budget should take care of the healthcare sector as well as healthcare education. The healthcare sector requires many critical care components and instruments, and many things are being imported in India as they aren’t made in the country. Import duty is also high that is why the healthcare cost increases and the private sector is unable to provide treatment at an affordable cost. So, if the import duty of the components is less then the healthcare cost will also come down. Some life-saving components and drugs made in India have a higher GST. In some cases, the GST also goes to 18 per cent. So, the GST should be brought down to the lowest slab, around 5 per cent. This will give cost benefits to the patients. Our finance minister should also do something regarding Ayushman Bharat yojana’s allocations and rationalisation in the upcoming budget. This will be a vital step for those citizens who cannot afford healthcare can get benefits through the private and government sectors.
Dr Rajiv Chhibber, Vice President, Sahajanand Medical Technologies
The Union Budget 2022-23 will be another defining moment for India as we emerge from the pandemic and bolster our stake to sustainable growth. The budget 2022-23 is expected to build on the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes and encourage continued investments in capacity expansion in the sector. However, high customs duties, lack of incentives for R&D in the medical device sector and tax holidays to medical device research and development centres, can propel the sector faster.
Another area of focus that the Union Budget 2022-23 needs to delve upon, especially since the government is looking at improving healthcare affordability and spreading its benefit to as many as domestic players possible, is to develop a larger domestic market that has enough critical volumes that domestic players can tap onto, enhancing their share, ultimately reducing import dependency which is now a whopping 80 per cent.
Vishal Bali, Executive Chairperson, Asia Healthcare Holdings
Budget 2022 must remain focused on increased allocation to the healthcare sector and fast track the bridging of the gap. Public healthcare spending on healthcare needs urgent reform and a clear allocation of 2.5 per cent of GDP in real terms and not under consolidation of allocations to various schemes and departments related to health and sanitation. Strengthing primary healthcare both at the urban and rural level with allocation and execution should be a key priority to develop the tiered healthcare system of the country. The government push for financing healthcare infrastructure development can also be aided through the issuance of GOI-backed healthcare bonds. Indigenisation of medical technology needs more steps under the Make in India programme both for local and international players to make India a manufacturing hub for medical technologies. In addition to this, reinstatement of the weighted deduction for R&D expenditure to encourage innovation of new products and technologies, particularly in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry should become the need of the hour for the country. Technology enablement has the power to redefine healthcare access in India, last-mile connectivity acceleration can create a new power of disease surveillance, population healthcare data management and enablement of healthcare services and products. The government should also look at accelerating rural internet connectivity to support education and healthcare services. The pandemic has shown that the need for health insurance for the citizens is imperative, to accelerate the penetration of health insurance further the Union Budget 2022 should also introduce a higher provision for tax deduction under section 80D. Budget 2022 should continue the path of transformation of healthcare for India and ensure that it continues to be a national priority.
Dr CJ Vetrievel, Founder Chairman & Managing Director, Be Well Hospital, Chennai
The excellent leadership and dedication shown by the Central government while handling the pandemic is commendable and must take inspiration from the same. An effective public-private partnership (PPP) model should be proposed to ensure cost-efficient operations are conducted. Additionally, the capital expenditure incurred on eligible healthcare projects in semi-urban and rural areas should be reduced for ventures with a minimum of 50 beds. This will help in reaching rural, semi-urban, peri-urban and suburban regions of the state by having a distributed healthcare delivery model rather than crowding in cities whilst providing quality healthcare services in the above-said regions. Considering the shortage of medical manpower in the country, a weighted deduction of expenses incurred on skill development in the healthcare sector must be offered. Loans for working capital should also be provided to new borrowers under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS). These are some considerations that we are requesting from the Government in the upcoming Union Budget 2022.
Dr Alok Roy, Chair, FICCI Health Services Committee and Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals
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 takes 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. 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 subsidised loans especially 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 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 and 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.
More emphasis should be placed on creating a commensurate ecosystem that 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 the government must explore to simplify the FDI in the healthcare sector. A mandatory/tax-incentivised 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.
Narendra Varde, MD, Roche Diagnostics
The pandemic has altered the perception of diagnostics among providers and patients alike. With changing consumer behaviour and increased awareness of healthcare, the diagnostic sector has taken the center stage. Today, the focus is more on accurate and reliable diagnostic testing. In keeping with the growing demand, there is a need to build stronger testing infrastructure for the future – one that ensures accessibility, reliability and affordability of IVD services. To begin with, the government must focus on incentivising preventive care – that includes screening for NCDs and personalised medicine. Secondly, the diagnostic industry and government need to work together to create reimbursement policies and payment methods based on the value that diagnostics offer, and not just the volume of tests run. Lastly but more importantly, the government and diagnostics ecosystem needs to work together to move towards ‘Health for All’ to ensure the availability of diagnostic tests at public health facilities to reduce the out-of-pocket expenditure incurred by patients.
Dr Anish Desai, Founder & CEO, IntelliMed Healthcare Solutions
Lack of cheap finance for the healthcare delivery models are some of the major issues that have been ailing the Indian healthcare system. Increasing the healthcare expenditure above 2.5 per cent of GDP and further going up to 4 per cent, is one of the primary expectations from the Union Budget 2022. Widening the coverage and regulating the private insurance sector will be important to address a few of the issues. Making finance available at low-interest rates for hospitals and diagnostic chains and making it one of the priority infrastructures in the sector is critical. GST and import duties need to be minimal on life-saving drugs and devices.
Investments in R&D and medical research need to be encouraged and positive steps are needed in this direction, with financial allocation for the same. This will help to boost the domestic healthcare sector. International companies need to be encouraged to have R&D and manufacturing in India in collaboration with domestic players to enhance the capabilities of the local players and make state of art technology available to Indian patients.
Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, AiMED
The government should protect the manufacturing base in India by increasing Basic Custom Duty on import of Medical Devices to at least 15 per cent from the current 0-7.5 per cent duty though WTO Bound rate is mostly 40 per cent. The government needs to put an additional 2 per cent infrastructural development cess on imports that could be used to provide budgetary support to Dept of Pharma that has the mandate to promote manufacturing of medical Devices; build the infrastructure of existing clusters and NIPERs; help to make Medical Devices parks and finance further PLI schemes. the GST needs to be a flat 12 per cent for all medical devices. Also reducing GST to 5 per cent is making Indian products non-competitive to imports as then manufacturers are unable to keep reduced Ex-Factory prices based on lower input costs net of GST.
Jatin Mahajan, MD, J Mitra & Co and Joint Coordinator – IVD (AiMeD)
The government should rationalise trade margins. There should be a robust strategy for establishing ICMED as a robust Indian certification mark equivalent to the likes of CE and FDA. This should be implemented for all domestic and imported devices. This will bring about standardisation and raise the quality of the medical devices available in the Indian market. This will also curb the proliferation of inferior and low-quality Chinese products that are rampantly being dumped in the Indian market.
The development of Medical Devices manufacturing hubs and special economic zones catering to the segment needs to be accelerated. It will provide the right mix of common infrastructure, facilities, and subsidies for technological upgradation. This will increase sustainability and economies of scale, and boost the growth of the segment. We will also recommend faster government permissions and single-window clearances; ease of doing business; adequate financing; competent infrastructure; soft loans with longer repayments.
Dr Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman and Managing Director, Aster DM Healthcare
The budget should incentivise the private sector to improve medical facilities in Tier II and III cities and rural areas to bridge the healthcare urban-rural divide. The government should roll out programmes to train new and up-skill the existing manpower to address the shortage of skilled manpower in the healthcare sector. The government should also consider “zero-rating” of GST on healthcare services and the lowest rate of GST on drugs, medical devices, and health insurance premiums to improve affordability. Rationalising the import duty on healthcare equipment is also required.
The government should provide tax incentives for investment in research and development for genetic research and genome mapping which can go a long way in supporting the National Digital Health Mission in early identification of genetic traits and intervention in the prevention of major NCDs.
Last but not the least, the government should increase budgetary allocation for the promotion of digital healthcare to improve access in rural and remote areas. This will not only reduce the burden on our limited healthcare facilities, but also the cost burden on the patients.
Dr Alok Khullar, CEO, Gleneagles Global Health City, Chennai
- Special schemes that should be provided for formal training of doctors and nurses to enhance skills and bandwidth to offer care to a larger population which will help strengthen the quality of healthcare resources in the longer run
- Building capacity for Intensive Care by enhancing skills of nurses and by providing better equipment and infrastructure
- Significance to be given to Appropriate Screening for Non-Communicable Diseases to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment which will help in reduction of hospitalisation in the last minute
- Upgrading infrastructure at Primary Health Care level for early Outpatient treatment thus reducing Hospitalization time and cost
- Benefits to be given to manufacturers of Healthcare equipment & consumables under the ‘Make in India’ campaign for high quality products and healthcare equipment to be manufactured at reasonable costs
- Healthcare organisations must be given access to working capital and preferential funding to ensure that the overall cost of operations is reduced
Dr Vispi Jokhi, Chief Executive Officer, Masina Hospital, Byculla, Mumbai
The expectations from the union budget for the healthcare sector relating to an increase from 1.8 pr cent in the outlay of the budget to at least 2.5 per cent of the GDP this year. This has become an oft repeated demand. In view of the state of health care following the devastating effect of the covid pandemic some concessions to the industry are in order. These relate to relaxation of norms for treating indigent and weaker section patients free of cost and at heavily subsidized cost. The 2 per cent to be set aside for this purpose should be reduced. he cost of compliance relating to fire safety norms and other infrastructure norms need to be reduced by providing special pricing for equipment relating to the same for hospitals. Going forward a policy to deal with pandemics in the future must be formulated where a consultative approach on public-private partnerships is to be adopted. The budget must provide for you universal health insurance with a reasonable pricing structure to enable charitable trust Hospital to participate in the same.
Dr Surendra k Chikara, Founder & CEO, Bione
Thanks to the innovation and quick response by the biotech industry during the pandemic, India’s biotech sector got some attention in the 2021 union budget. The finance minister spoke about the need for preventive and curative health and there was a 137 per cent hike in the government outlay on health and well-being. In the 2022 budget, we feel that the government should move positively to recognize the important role genetic testing including DTC Genetic testing can play in preventive healthcare. We would highly welcome any measures to boost private-sector R&D in the biotechnology segment in the manner it rightly deserves. This will go a long way towards making quality preventive healthcare affordable.
Vikram Thaploo, CEO, Apollo Telehealth
We are expecting more technological innovations to take place in the industry. The budget should be well allocated to the healthcare sector to initiate new innovations to be prepared for the fight with pandemics like COVID-19 in the future. Increased allocation of budget for promotion of telemedicine, home-based healthcare and national digital health mission implementation will help in building a strong healthcare ecosystem in the country.The government should also support private players and startups in this segment to increase the current coverage of the locations including tier-2 and tier-3 cities to provide the advanced healthcare facilities in these areas.
Ashok Patel, CEO and Founder, Max Ventilator
The government must build on its earlier policy incentives such as PLI schemes and dedicated medtech parks by increasing allocations. In fact, the government should ensure that the smaller medical device players also get included and can benefit from the special schemes and offers that it has extended with a view to catalyze domestic manufacturing and to achieve the larger goal of self-reliance. The government should also invest sufficiently into genetic and genomic research, epidemiology and vaccine research besides increasing allocation for broader healthcare R&D. The budget could also incentivise the consumables as well as medical device accessory segments which hold huge promise for the domestic sector.
Nikkhil K Masurkar, Executive Director, ENTOD Pharmaceuticals
The Union Budget 2022 is expected to build on the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes and encourage continued investments in capacity expansion of sensitive APIs, drug intermediates, complex excipients, biopharmaceuticals and medical devices. The government needs to consider tax incentives to attract innovation. Interaction with industry and global players can help India’s pharmaceutical sector to move from a generic manufacturer to an innovator developer and manufacturer for the world. Extensions of a tax deduction on product development and R&D are some of the other demands of the pharmaceutical sector. The industry also seeks a 150% deduction in tax on in-house R&D.
Dr Aashish Chaudhry, MD, Aakash Healthcare, Dwarka
We anticipate that the government of India will increase its healthcare spending in this budget. We should aim to raise it to at least 2.5 per cent of GDP this year. Despite the focus on the COVID-19 pandemic at the moment, it is critical to increase the proportion of 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.
Sugandh Ahluwalia, Chief of Strategy, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre
“As we enter the third year of the pandemic, our expectations for Budget 2022 are for increased spending on healthcare. India’s total healthcare expenditure is significantly lower than that of other countries. More public-private partnerships, as well as additional investments, are required to strengthen indigenous manufacturing of medical devices, personal protective equipment (PPE), and raw materials for drugs. Hence, the government must allocate more budget for the healthcare industry. Furthermore, higher tax breaks for the private sector to modernize medical facilities will go a long way toward ensuring better healthcare, more investments, and thus more jobs.”
Dr Gauri Agarwal, Found & Director, Genestrings Diagnostic and Seeds of Innocence
We advocate the principle of introducing high end molecular/genetic testing at a micro level in Indian cities for reducing the difficulties in accessing quality testing and for strengthening regional medical infrastructure at a micro level. With the help of the Government’s grants, we can collectively formulate and implement cheaper alternatives to expensive genetic testing
G Srinivasan, CEO, Athulya
Initiatives to motivate youngsters to take up a career in the healthcare industry and to include continuous development programs in their curriculum to enhance their skills will address the current demand for healthcare professionals. To help our senior citizens meet the rising cost of medical treatments we would request to increase the health insurance age limit for senior citizens and to include provisions to increase the coverage, irrespective of existing medical illnesses. To increase the support and guidance given to start-ups, in the form of incentives towards building and developing healthcare technologies that would aid in early detection, monitoring, screening and diagnosis of health ailments. This will reduce our dependence on international companies for the same. We would also expect the government to considerately reduce the taxes imposed on medical equipment that are very essential, which will result in bringing down the overall medical expenses for an individual with ailments and comorbidities. Eventually, helping our senior citizen community to fight the potential escalations in their medical bills. And finally, to increase the tax benefits against their medical expenses and to revise the existing deduction for senior citizens as the cost of living has increased.