Covid-19 pandemic pushes India's health expenditure to 2.1% of GDP

In the pandemic year, the central and state governments’ budgeted expenditure on the health sector reached 2.1 per cent of GDP in 2021-22
Last Updated : 01 February 2022, 05:06 IST

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A significant budgetary increase for the healthcare sector in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic pushed India's health expenditure to 2.1 per cent of GDP for the first time, bringing it close to the government's policy aspiration.

In the pandemic year, the central and state governments’ budgeted expenditure on the health sector reached 2.1 per cent of GDP in 2021-22, against 1.3 per cent in the previous fiscal, according to the Economic Survey 2021-22.

This is within a touching distance of the government's target of reaching a health expenditure of 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2025 as envisaged in the National Health Policy, 2017.

“Investments into health systems capacity to recognise and respond to public health threats and strong primary health care delivery systems will determine the future course of public health emergencies like Covid-19 epidemic. The forthcoming budget outlays into health infrastructure will be a testament to this effect,” Oommen John, a senior public research fellow at the George Institute for Global Health, told DH.

Following the Covid-19 pandemic, India's health expenditure saw a rise of nearly 73 per cent - from Rs 2.73 lakh crore in 2019-20 (pre-Covid19 days) to Rs 4.72 lakh crore in 2021-22. This includes the Rs 35,000 crore that the Centre allocated on the Covid-19 vaccination scheme.

In addition to the National Health Mission, the government announced Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission, a new centrally sponsored scheme with an outlay of about Rs 64,180 crore in next five years to develop capacities of primary, secondary and tertiary health care systems, strengthen existing national institutions, and create new institutions to cater to detection and cure of new and emerging diseases.

Public health experts hope that the Union Budget 2022-23 would continue to provide much-needed support to the health sector, which was devoid of a large scale funding support for a long time. "If there are any lessons from two years of the ongoing pandemic it is that temporary measures such as restrictions of movement and closure of schools are stop gap interventions while long term strategies for health systems resilience are implemented," John added.

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Published 31 January 2022, 16:31 IST

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