Experts pointed out that the government has given priority to public- Private Partnership (PPP) as facilities of select Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) labs will be made available for research by public and private medical college faculty. With this private sector R &D teams for encouraging collaborative research and innovation
The Finance Minister’s the ‘Sapt Rishi’ priorities which includes inclusive development, last mile service, investment, infrastructure, youth power, green growth, and financial sector augurs well for the development of healthcare sector as well. The sector is aligned with these priorities perfectly well. However, in terms of higher financing and other expectations like setting up a regulator, long term affordable credit facilities, top sops among others, healthcare leaders and experts find that for the sector, Union Budget 2023-24 has more ‘misses’ than ‘hits.’ However, the sector is optimistic that with a pragmatic budget provisions, the government would certainly consider the long-pending demands of the sector before finalizing the Budget.
With a Budgetary allocation of Rs 89,155 crore to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the government has shown its intent to increase public spending to improve the health delivery systems in the country. Last year, the government allocated Rs 86, 200 crore. Hence, a hike of nearly Rs 3,000 crore augurs well for the efficient implementation of several key schemes and that would benefit the people. Union Budget 2023-24 has accorded priority on capacity building and setting up 157 Nursing Colleges is a clear manifestation of that. Another visionary provision include A Mission to eliminate Sickle-Cell Anaemia by 2047 and it aims at screening of 7 crore people in 0-40 years age group in affected tribal areas.
“We were also expecting some incentives for green hospital projects, PPP, provisions for long-term credit facilities, a dedicated regulator for the hospital sector and rationalisation of import duty on medical equipment. Some of our expectations remain unfulfilled. However, we are hopeful that in ‘Sapt Rishi’ model of development, the government would find out some ways to consider the much-needed reforms while finalizing the Budget 2023-24, said, Anurag Kashyap, Director- Finance & Strategy, TR Life Sciences- a Healthcare Consulting Firm.
In terms of budgetary allocations, Ministry of AYUSH has got Rs 3647 crore. Major schemes like National Health Mission (NHM) has not got more Rs 25 crore hike. The NHM was allocated Rs 28974 crore for FY 22-23 which has been increased to Rs 29085 crore for FY 23-24. Ayushman Bharat PMJAY has got a hike of nearly Rs 800 crore. Allocation has been increased from Rs 6412 crore to Rs 7200 crore for the next fiscal. It is encouraging to note that the government has accorded priority to National Digital Health Mission and increase its allocation from Rs 140 crore to Rs 340 crore for FY 23-24. However, the healthcare experts find that drastic cut in PM Swathya Suraksha Yojna would have cascading effects on public health insurance programmes. In 2022-23, the Yojna was allocated Rs 8269 crore and it has been reduced to Rs 3365 crore in the Budget for 2023-24. Provisions for a higher budgetary allocation is positive but in real terms, the sector needs more to achieve the target of 2.5 per cent of GDP.
Commander Navneet Bali, Regional Director, Narayana Health-North said, “Union Budget 2023 looks progressive and inclusive for the healthcare sector. The government has taken a holistic approach by focusing on the ‘Sapt Rishi’ Model and our sector is aligned with all the seven pillars mentioned by the Finance Minister in her speech. We were expecting some measures on capacity building in the sector and it is promising to note that the government has announced setting up 157 new nursing colleges. This would enhance our capacity and fill the gap in terms of human resources. The proposed Mission to eliminate sickle cell anemia by 2047 is a very positive step.”
Experts pointed out that the government has given priority to public- Private Partnership (PPP) as facilities of select Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) labs will be made available for research by public and private medical college faculty. With this private sector R &D teams for encouraging collaborative research and innovation.
Sugandh Ahluwalia, Chief Strategy Officer, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre said, “ An important takeaway is a push to public-private partnership by making available facilities in select ICMR labs for research by public and private medical institutions. As we were expecting some incentives in Medical Value Tourism, so overall thrust to promote tourism, thereby extending facilities to overseas tourists, would also benefit medical tourism in the country. With the announced measures, the healthcare industry is hopeful to conduct more inter-disciplinary research, develop cutting-edge applications and scalable problem solutions.”
A new program to promote research and innovation and pharmaceuticals, through centers of excellence is a very pragmatic move and the experts feel that this will take India to new high in terms dominance in global markets.
“The Budget encourages the industry to invest in research and development in specific priority areas. In the backdrop of ‘Amrit Kaal’ the Budget 2023-24 has identified Seven Priorities (Sapt Rishi). Healthcare is definitely aligned with all the priorities. It is promising to note that the government has made sincere efforts to increase public spending in the sector to 2.1 per cent of GDP in FY23-24. This hike would take the government near the target of 2.5 per cent. The increase in the Health Ministry’s allocation would help in strengthening the primary, and secondary delivery systems along with expanding Health and Wellness Centres across the country,” said Baldev Raj, Health Expert and MD, Prius Communications.
The government has acknowledged the importance of research and innovations in the sector. Making ICMR labs available for private institutions, dedicated multidisciplinary courses for medical devices and the New Pharma Program through Centres of Excellence reflects the government’s intent to create a new healthcare ecosystem.
Overall, the experts find that the government has accorded priorities for key areas such as medical and nursing education, and promotion of research in the healthcare sector. Push to Private Public Participation (PPP) in medical education, research, innovations, and pharmaceutical would go long way to offer effective solutions. However, they pointed out that there are some misses in the budgetary announcement pertaining to the expectations of the sector. They are hopeful that the government would consider the demands such as setting up a regulator, long-term credit and tax incentives while finalising the Budget 2023-24.