India likely to double health spending next fiscal year

''The public spend in healthcare needs to increase from the current 1.2 per cent to at least 2.5 per cent of GDP in the next 3 years, much of which should be invested in creating and modernising our infrastructure. Hopefully, the budget for 2021-22 would take the important first step towards this,'' Manipal Hospitals MD & CEO Dilip Jose said in a statement.

 

NEW DELHI:

India is likely to double health spending in the next fiscal year with the aim of raising expenditure in the sector to 4% of gross domestic output in the coming four years, two officials said, as the country looks to fix its health system after the coronavirus pandemic.ndia will likely raise its health spending to Rs 1.2-1.3 trillion ($16.46-$17.83 billion) in the fiscal year starting April 1, from the current year’s projected spending of 626 billion rupees, the officials told Reuters.

The new healthcare plan is likely to be unveiled on Feb. 1 when Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents the country’s budget for 2020/21.

Sitharaman is likely to unveil a four year health budget plan with the aim to move India’s healthcare spend to 4% of GDP, with the help of a dedicated health fund, the officials said.

The government should increase healthcare spend in the ensuing budget for ramping up the infrastructure in the sector, healthcare service providers have said.

''The public spend in healthcare needs to increase from the current 1.2 per cent to at least 2.5 per cent of GDP in the next 3 years, much of which should be invested in creating and modernising our infrastructure. Hopefully, the budget for 2021-22 would take the important first step towards this,'' Manipal Hospitals MD & CEO Dilip Jose said in a statement.

Rapid and proactive actions of the government and the tireless efforts of healthcare workers helped the country navigate the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it exposed the chinks in the healthcare system, and highlighted the need for a major infrastructure revamp, he added.

Highlighting the expectations from the budget, Metropolis Healthcare Promoter & MD Ameera Shah said, ''The lack of adequate public health infrastructure in India combined with a high Out-of-pocket expenditure imposes a high financial burden on Indian households and therefore increasing the healthcare budget allocation in the coming decade is of utmost importance''.

The need of the hour is to strengthen the provisioning of healthcare services through public-private partnerships, she added.

''While the healthcare segment has been a key focus area and part of country's development plan through various comprehensive initiatives including Swachh Bharat, Ayushman Bharat, National Digital Health Mission and now 'Mission COVID Suraksha', the long-term response to the virus needs a significant part of budget allocation,'' SRL Diagnostics CEO Anand K said.

Even after decades of high growth, the country’s spending on healthcare has been a meagre 1.3% of GDP, way below BRICS peers and developed countries.
The strain of India’s underfunded healthcare system was put in stark relief during the pandemic, with states forced to set-up makeshift COVID care centres and many hospitals struggling to meet the demand for beds and oxygen cylinders.

India has recorded over 10.6 million coronavirus cases, the second-highest in the world after the United States.

The government could also increase a health tax from the current 1% of income and corporate tax to fund the new programme, one of the above officials said.

Currently it raises about Rs15,000-16,000 crore annually from the health tax.
 


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