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Healthcare still waiting for its share of Budget Pie

Interim Budget 2019: Healthcare's Mood

Dr. Prathap C. Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals Group:  A forward-thinking budget with a definitive vision to accelerate much greater progress and enhance wellbeing of Indians, the allocation of Rs. 6400 crores for Ayushman Bharat is very welcome. Now it is paramount, that India ramps up its efforts to arrest the upsurge of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are increasing like an epidemic.
The morbidity and mortality due to Diabetes and increasing prevalence of Cancers are very concerning.  9 out of 10 deaths due to NCDs can be prevented by awareness and early screening.  I commend the Government for the budget recommendation. The endeavors and efforts that the Government of India has embarked upon will make our nation healthier and a model for the world to emulate.

Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman & Managing Director, Aster DM Healthcare : One interesting highlight in the Interim Budget is the vision for ‘Healthy India’ by building a distress free, functional and comprehensive healthcare and wellness system by 2030. With the launch of Ayushman Bharat, wherein  Rs3000 crores have been allocated, I believe we are moving in the right direction.With the proposal for Digital India, the government is keen on converting 1 lakh villages of India into digital villages. The focus is on reducing the urban-rural gap through best in class infrastructure. We are hopeful that this will eventually result in reducing the urban-rural gap in healthcare delivery. Another remarkable announcement by Finance Minister was emphasis on technology-driven growth and setting up National Artificial Intelligence (AI) portal to be set up soon. We are hopeful that this will further benefit the healthcare sector with introduction of AI for better detection and treatment areas.

What we missed in this budget is the increase in budget pie for healthcare. We are hopeful that the government in the long run will certainly take a step further on this.

Ganesh Sabat, CEO, SMT: Budget 2019 is an interim budget benefiting mostly middle class, farmers and tax payers.  Regarding healthcare we expected larger spends on Ayushman Bharat but the current increase is insufficient . Refreshing to see Government talking about artificial intelligence (AI). AI is expected to revolutionize healthcare and hopefully Government will focus extensively in this field. There is no beneficiary scheme for the local manufacturers of medical device whereas Government wants to reduce healthcare cost in India. Overall a budget on the expected line of election year.

Shravan Subramanyam, Managing Director, India and Neighbouring Markets, Roche Diagnostics India: The Union Budget 2019 speech this morning clearly spelled out the Central Government’s scale-up in healthcare initiatives over the past few years. This is encouraging as this focus helps augment and strengthen health access across India.

While establishing access through healthcare infrastructures like hospitals and medical colleges is great, focused and planned expenditure on improving participation from the public in preventive healthcare at these hospitals through awareness programmes is important.

With the announcement of ambitious projects like Ayushman Bharat last year, expectations were high for the 2019 Budgetary recommendations on healthcare. Some inclusions on outpatient care and diagnostics would have been great. We would have liked to see in this Budget a roadmap for healthcare development programmes announced last year to be implemented seamlessly across the country.

Anurag Yadav, Chief Financial Officer, Parkway PantaiIndia Operations Division: Interim Budget 2019 has continued commitment on the free health coverage to being continued for about 50 crore Indians under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. It was also mentioned in the budget that the prices of medicines have come down with the control of drugs, stents, and knee implant prices. The government reiterated its vision of creating a healthy India, with distress-free and comprehensive wellness system for all. Under the government’s India 2030 vision, the ninth and tenth dimensions focus will be on healthy India and a comprehensive wellness system, respectively. It remains to be seen how this will help the healthcare industry to grow and the overall development of health eco system.

Gautam Khanna, CEO of P.D. Hinduja Hospital & MRC: Overall, the budget is growth oriented and pro-farmer and pro-middle class.  Economic growth at 8.2% and 7.1 % in the first and second quarters and the fact that fiscal deficit is at 3.4% are positive signs. On the healthcare front, Ayushman Bharat scheme has been launched in a short time, which is  creditable. Effective implementation of the scheme and ensuring a win-win situation for both the healthcare providers and patients will be critical for its success in the future. Setting up of 22nd AIIMS at Haryana is a much-needed step to augment the public sector healthcare facility in the country. The government focus on Swach Bharat, Safe drinking water and food-for-all are good preventive healthcare measures, which are likely to improve the overall health and well-being being of people. The decision to extend the tax rebate on an annual income of Rs. 5 lakhs will definitely help citizens better manage their healthcare needs. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras has also reduced the prices of essential medicines, cardiac stents and knee implants, enabling access to various income groups.

We will work towards aligning our efforts with a positive impact of the national health schemes and the government’s vision towards providing a distress free healthcare and a comprehensive wellness system for all by 2030

Manish Sacheti, CFO, Ziqitza Healthcare Ltd: We applaud the Government on the announcement of a budget directed towards the lesser privileged and middle class population. The budget this year has indeed addressed a lot of issues that will help the economy to prosper. The allocation of INR 19,000 crores for the development of the roads in the rural areas is a great initiative. Being an emergency medical provider, this will help us reach out to the remotest corners of the country which has connectivity constraints. The success of the Ayushman Bharat Scheme is commendable and we are glad that the healthcare sector of the country is undergoing a significant transformation.

We hope that the Skill India program will include training of youths to become dedicated paramedics to help efficient and quality ambulance services. One avenue that should have been looked at is making Healthcare services  “zero-rated” under GST provisions, instead of being exempted, as the cost of inputs throughout the industry could further be reduced by claiming refunds of taxes paid on these inputs. This would help to enable these specialized services to reach out to the masses.

Dr. Somesh Mittal, Managing Director & CEO, Vikram Hospital Bengaluru: It is encouraging and happy to know that the Government has announced the largest government-funded healthcare scheme, Ayushman Bharat which will be beneficial to nearly 50 crore people. The reduction in the prices of essential medicines, cardiac stents and knee implants, and availability of medicines at affordable prices through Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras will help lakhs of poor and middle class people is definitely a welcome move. This scheme will further empower the poor and under privileged to avail medical services. We expected the government to provide sops for the healthcare service providers and encourage them to adopt technology like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and the likes. These technology implantations will revolutionize precision based diagnosis, detection and prevention of diseases and benefit the citizens of the country.

Shanthini Arunthavanathan, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Westminster Healthcare, Chennai: The 2019-20 union budget comes as a cheer to many due to the government’s attempt of creating a mass -budget this year with special focus on rural health. Ayushman Bharat Scheme that was launched last year for providing medical treatment to around 50 crore people have so far treated 10 lakh people who could save nearly Rs 3,000 crore. This is a great achievement by the country’s healthcare and roping in private hospitals to the scheme as proposed by the government last year will certainly provide more teeth to it. However, more allocation of fund for appropriate execution of the scheme was a necessity and was expected. Apart from announcing about 14 new AIIMS since 2014, the announcement regarding setting up of 22nd All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Haryana is a welcome move towards enhancing advanced medical research in India, producing a greater number of qualified medical professionals and expanding opportunities for the aspiring medical students of the country. The government’s vision towards having a distress free healthcare and a functional, comprehensive healthcare system by 2030 are praiseworthy. Availability of drugs at a subsidised price at Jan Aushadhi Kendras and implementation of a price cap on drugs have made medicine affordable for all. With five lakh villages being declared open-defecation free along with achievement of over 98% rural sanitation coverage, there will be a certain improvement in both rural and urban health condition.

Saurabh Agarwal, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Medlife: The Interim Budget 2019 talked about various initiatives taken up by the Modi government that have transformed India in to one of the fastest growing economies in the world.   Ayushman Bharat, one of the world’s largest healthcare scheme was introduced with the aim of making healthcare affordable and accessible to all and has till date benefitted nearly 10 lakh patients. While, the Finance Minister did speak about the Digital India revolution, we hope to see more emphasis on digital healthcare given the positive impact it has created in improving access. However, we are confident that digital healthcare will find more prominence in the upcoming budget sessions. We will continue with our efforts to improve the healthcare ecosystem and align our efforts with the government’s vision to create distress free healthcare and a comprehensive wellness system for all.

 

Vishal Beri, CEO of Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar: This is a pro-people Budget overall.  We welcome the Interim Budget which focuses on a broader vision of building healthy growth-oriented India.The government’s focus on ‘Digital India’ shows road map for building healthcare advanced facilities in rural India. The focus was clearly on bridging the urban-rural gap through upgrading infrastructure. We hope ‘Digital India’ will have its positive effect on healthcare infrastructure as well with emphasis on telemedicine and advanced technologies. This will further boost in improvising the health conditions of rural India.

However, the overall Budget allocation for the healthcare sector has remained the same, which should have increased substantially to improve the quality of care. We hope that the Budget session post Loksabha Elections will bring interesting news and government spending for the healthcare sector.

Sreeraman is Co-Founder of Agrahyah Technologies: A ‘no harm budget’ for both India and Bharat. With interest subvention for farmers and high rebates on income tax, this a well-balanced interim budget for both urban and rural Indians. The budget puts more money in the hands of people, a welcome move.With the election around the corner, the budget aims to focus on increasing consumption and expedite revival of an economy which faced headwinds from the previous initiatives such as DeMo, RERA, and GST.A revival of demand in real estate, auto, and consumer goods are obvious which also increases the number of loans disbursed by a bank, thus blowing tailwinds for all major sectors driving the consumer economy. India is leading in mobile data consumption in the world, coupled with increased connectivity and cheapest data plans, we can expect increased consumption not just in consumer goods, but also multimedia content consumption on mobile. With 1 lac villages poised to be transformed into Digital Village, it will be a windfall for digital payments, e-services, and content-driven companies.

Ishiqa Multani, Executive Director, Sagar Hospitals: A multi-faceted budget that addresses the long-term challenges of our healthcare system and lays the foundation for a sustainable future health status of India is what we all expect. Although last year’s budget had the mega announcement of “world’s largest healthcare scheme”, Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), undertaken by the government, the success of the same is subjected to the availability of good infrastructure. This year’s interim budget has limitations to address the issues relating to poor public infrastructure. Further measures must be undertaken to provision public-private partnerships to create a sustainable healthcare system under good governance in addition to provisioning the availability of skilled manpower for the hospital sector.
The middle-class will be benefitted with an additional disposable income to spare for their healthcare needs with the announcement of zero tax payment for individuals earning up to Rs. 5 lakh, including the others who invest in tax-saving instruments the relief is up to Rs. 6.5 lakh. Further, Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendra reassures price reductions in some of the life-saving generic drugs and stents that reflects a concern for the needy. As for the inter-country Meditourism, the industry will see an increase since the announcement of increased scope of inter-state communication and transport.
With advancements in technology and globalisation driving disruption, opportunities for healthcare start-ups has been understood well and an ecosystem where innovation thrives has been created in the last few years. The relief in the form of paying quarterly returns thereby reducing the burden is a great addition.”

 

Dr Partap Chauhan, Director Jiva Ayurveda: We welcome the Central Government’s announcement to open the 22nd All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Haryana. A world-class medical facility like AIIMS in Haryana will further the cause of providing comprehensive healthcare to all in the state. In November 2018, it was announced that Ayurveda departments will be opened in all the new 19 AIIMS, such initiative will further the government’s mission of ‘Ayurveda for Public Health’. A few months ago, the Ministry of AYUSH took the pioneering step of publishing the guidelines for insurance coverage to Ayurvedic treatment and settlement of claims on the basis of benchmark rates for various interventions. Following this the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) issued clarifications to general and health insurance companies and Third Party Administrators (TPAs) to provide coverage to Ayurveda and other systems of medicines under AYUSH. We hope in coming years Ayurvedic treatment will also be covered under Ayushman Bharat, the world’s largest healthcare programme.

Siraj Dhanani Founder, InnAccel Technologies: Creating a healthy India with distress-free and comprehensive wellness system for all is a laudable aim, which can be achieved by the widespread adoption of indigenously developed medical technologies that solve problems faced by Bharat and India both.
A. Vijayarajan, Founder, InnAccel Technologies: Artificial intelligence has the potential to disrupt Healthcare Delivery in the country. With the focus on Digital India in the last few years and integrated with this New AI initiative will help us to meet some of the challenges in the Healthcare Industry.

Dr. Anuneet Sabharwal, MBBS, MD Psychiatry: The largest healthcare programme, Ayushman Bharat, will provide medical treatment to nearly 50 crore people across the country, around 10 lakh patients have already benefited through free treatment. The medical treatment which could have otherwise cost them Rs. 3,000 crore. Lakhs of poor and middle-class people are also benefiting from reduced medicines charges. The availability of medicines at affordable prices through Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras benefited many underprivileged families.

Dr Sujit Paul, Managing Director, StayHappi Pharmacy: We have not seen any major positive push in Healthcare to the truest sense. One large healthcare facility in a specific state is surely not the solution, more tertiary centres should have been planned then. Moreover more reach and penetration strategy towards affordable medicine should have been planned for.

Siddharth Angrish, FounderJiyyo.com,an Artificial Intelligence Based Patient Care Coordination Platform. : The Government’s focus on Ayushman Bharat is giving results. However, a lot more can be achieved. Local players in online healthcare can be roped in for increasing outreach and awareness about such govt initiatives. For example, it should be really easy for any patient to find out the hospitals & services covered under the scheme. Being able to show pricing details to patients will also increase their confidence. Such data can be shared with startups so they have apply their creativity and create more value added services.

Nilesh Jain, Founding partner, Clinivantage healthcare technologies and an expert investor: The central government’s role in the healthcare sector of the country has increased drastically with Budget 2019, and so will the pressure on the transparency of care and the financing of the same. The thought of accessible & affordable medical healthcare treatment is taking center stage, along with this it will be very critical to upgrade the technology infrastructure and adapt new technologies to scale reach and make this program a huge success.  Adoption of new technology, AI and transparency controls via deployment of unified cloud system will help speed the success story of Ayushman Bharat.

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