By Ashutosh Raghuvanshi
The COVID pandemic has underlined the importance of higher budget allocation for healthcare more than anything else. A large part of previous budgets was dedicated to making healthcare cheaper and more accessible, but now the current situation demands increased budget for improving healthcare infrastructure at primary, secondary and tertiary levels and also to propel healthcare sector recovery.
There are indications that the Government is likely to increase healthcare spending in the forthcoming budget announcement on Feb 1. This is most laudable as healthcare is a national priority sector today and we need a dedicated national health fund that can provide all necessary resources and support to fix existing gaps, upgrade healthcare infrastructure, equip district-level hospitals and primary health centres with oxygen supplies, increased beds and medical equipment. We also need to invest more in medical education and training to address the shortage of healthcare professionals in the country and strengthen the operational modalities to boost digital health and telemedicine services.
In order to ensure that credit chain remains intact and input taxes are not loaded into the cost of healthcare services, Government may consider zero-rating of GST for healthcare. There is also a need to upgrade skilling to Increase capacities among healthcare workers. There is also an urgent need to review and implement national programmes on non-communicable diseases to tackle the increasing burden of heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, and tuberculosis as well as to encourage preventive care.
(Author is MD & CEO, Fortis Healthcare Limited on his Expectations from Budget 2021)