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Budget 2020: Will Sitharaman Make Healthtech More Accessible, Affordable For Indians?

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22.01.2020

At a time when India accounts for a substantial part of global deaths from chronic diseases and child malnutrition, spending just 1% of the GDP on healthcare clearly doesn’t justify the basic requirements of the country. In recent years, to the credit of the Narendra Modi government, policy-related initiatives have looked to change the game in lieu of funding allocation. Of course, when it comes to the future of healthcare, the government has to start focusing on enabling healthtech innovation to boost and supplement policy decisions.

The Modi government, in 2017, announced a new National Health Policy which identified the key issues such as the need to focus on the growing burden of non-communicable diseases, growing people’s expenditure in healthcare and more. Then In 2018, it launched a National Health insurance for certain entitled people chosen as per the government’s socio-economic and caste census data.

As PM JAY (previously Ayushman Bharat) completed a year in September 2019, the health minister Harsh Vardhan in the annual report gave an account of its success and performance. “During the year gone by, NHA has covered substantial ground. 10.3 Cr e-cards have been issued to beneficiaries and treatment amounting to INR 7,490 Cr was pre-authorised in different parts of the country. Every second, three e-cards are being distributed and every day, 51 hospitals are joining the network which brings healthcare to PM-JAY beneficiaries.”

However, the national insurance policy has been heavily criticised on multiple grounds, mainly:

  • A significant part of rural India simply doesn’t have access to health services
  • Hospitals are grossly misusing the cards, siphoning off public funds
  • The government has also released a report pertaining to National Health Digital Blueprint which aims to create digital health data and the infrastructure required for its seamless exchange. In 2019, the government provided INR 90 Cr to set up 1,032 AYUSH health & wellness centres, 91 integrated AYUSH hospitals.

    Despite these initiatives and eight new AIIMS being established across India, building healthcare infrastructure for 1.3 Bn population is no less than a Himalayan task.

    There is a severe dearth of at least 6 Lakh doctors and 2 Mn nurses. Lack of basic healthcare services, lack of doctors, nurses and inadequate online health data have brought in healthtech entrepreneurs to enable tech solutions that could help solve healthcare issues.

    India’s healthcare market is set to hit $372 Bn by 2022 and it is expected to create 40 Mn jobs by 2030. Currently, there are around 3K startups many of which have successfully brought healthcare services to patient’s homes.

    However, healthtech is here to complement healthcare and not to replace it. And, the government needs to look at how both could co-create services that could help solve India’s looming healthcare issues.

    In the last Budget 2020, the finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman came up with some cosmetic reforms. Among these were:

    • The deduction limit for savings under section 80C was increased from INR 1 lakh to INR 1.5 lakh
    • The deduction limit for medical insurance was increased to INR........

      © Inc42