COVID-19 has been a reality check for the healthcare sector in India. Especially for Tier III towns and beyond, where healthcare infrastructure is skewed with limited exposure to technology and quality professionals. While there has been a tremendous growth in the sector in terms of opening up of new medical colleges and hospitals, Ayushman Bharatnew-age technologies and so on, we still have a long way to go.
The union budget 2023-24 is expected to support public as well as private healthcare sectors through strengthening hospital infrastructure, improving medical resources, providing specialized services, health insurance schemes and more.
Rationalization of GST for hospital Industries
The government could reduce GST for healthcare establishments by reducing it to the minimum band (of 5%) so that they can claim for input tax credit, Currently, hospitals pay GST while buying goods; however, they cannot levy the same to their patients, and hence there is no set-off, putting them at a loss.
soft loans from banks
Banks should be encouraged to provide long tenure loans for hospital projects with longer moratorium period, including provision for ‘ballooning’ of repayment schedules. This will encourage more hospitals to come up, especially in semi-urban and rural areas.
Enlarge Ayushman Bharat scheme
In order to popularize the social health insurance schemes among India’s burgeoning middle class, the rates should be regularly revised depending upon market situations. There should also be targeted schemes for both pediatric and geriatric care which comprises more than 45% of our total population.
Focus on paramedical training
More budgetary allocation needs to be made towards skill development in paramedical streams. With the mushrooming of medical colleges, India is on the path to have sufficient doctors by the next decade. However, the focus needs to shift to paramedical training, which includes trauma professionals, nurses, medical laboratory specialists, nutrition sciences professionals and more, thereby providing a strong support to the clinical team and patients alike.
Invest in digital healthcare infrastructure
Lastly, strengthening telemedicine infrastructure that can be leveraged by both public & private sectors, will improve reach of our medical resources beyond hospitals as well as assist in last mile healthcare delivery. roboticsartificial intelligence and machine learning too will play a big role in making quality healthcare more affordable.
Overall, we can hope for the Union Budget to support the healthcare industry which will make India a healthy and happy country in the long-term.
Dr. Vivek DesaiFounder & Managing Director, HOSMAC – Planning, Design and Management Consultancy.
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