'Govt should consider lowering GST on health insurance'

Budget 2021 | Government should consider lowering GST rate on health insurance, says Max Bupa CEO

Representative image. Credit: iStock.

By Krishnan Ramachandran,

Healthcare for all is an important and a necessary goal for the country. A demographic dividend can only be achieved if we have jobs, skills, and healthy people. However, India currently spends around 1% of GDP on healthcare, which is very less compared to other countries at a similar stage of development. For India to march towards the ambition of a 5-trillion economy, the large working class and young population must be healthy and health insurance will be a major tool in helping realise this goal.

Health Insurance can be a great enabler to provide access to quality healthcare, not only for in-patient care but out-patient care as well. We need to put more concrete efforts to raise awareness about the benefits of health insurance and bring more people under its ambit.

People tend to neglect and delay the treatment of everyday illness which ultimately leads to them needing hospitalization and requiring much more expensive care. Currently, an unreasonably high 18% GST is levied on health insurance premium, which not only makes in-patient care unnecessarily expensive but is also a serious impediment in building out-patient products, which actually constitutes around 60-70% of healthcare spends. The Government should consider lowering the prevailing GST rate on health insurance. This will not only enhance its penetration but also help Government in collecting more tax by broadening the customer base.

Enhancement in tax concessions has been helpful in many parts of the world to increase health insurance uptake. Individuals currently can claim a deduction of up to Rs 25,000 when they purchase health insurance for their parents who are less than 60 years of age and Rs 50,000 if parents are over 60 years of age. Government can consider increasing this limit to allow a deduction of 50,000 for parents less than 60 years of age and 1 lakh for parents above 60 years of age. This tax benefit will encourage more people to opt for health insurance for their elderly parents.

Globally, India has become a lucrative market and it is our turn to be able to attract investments. Insurance is a well-regulated sector with robust consumer protection norms, hence attracting foreign capital would be more convenient. Allowing 74% FDI will propel the growth of health insurance sector, giving opportunities to more companies to invest in the country.

Further, it is important for the healthcare industry to be regulated and subjected to the same boundary conditions as health insurance for the sector to flourish and deliver affordability.

(The author is MD & CEO, Max Bupa Health Insurance)