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NATHEALTH submits key budget recommendations

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NATHEALTH has come up with the set of some important recommendations that will go a long way in terms of providing solutions to the problems caused due to COVID-19

NATHEALTH has submitted a comprehensive set of recommendations to the Government for the financial budget 2022-23. The prime objective in a pandemic period should be to catalyse creation of new healthcare infrastructure backed by commensurate investments to expand CC/ICU Infra in hospitals and diagnostic labs and ambulatory/homecare infra outside hospitals. An investment into healthcare will have a multiplier effect on economy and will require creating an ecosystem to accelerate approval process for global innovation around COVID-19, address the long- and short-term structural gaps and fast track the recovery of healthcare sector.

The Indian healthcare sector can truly live up to its potential of offering affordable excellence to underpin India’s aspirations to be a USD 5 trillion-dollar economy over the next decade. In order to build a better and healthier future of rural and urban India, expanding the health infra beyond metro cities is very crucial step to be considered. It is important to note that the private health sector has been standing alongside the Government in managing the pandemic.

NATHEALTH has come up with the set of some important recommendations that will go a long way in terms of providing solutions to the problems caused due to COVID-19. As the Government reconsiders several measures for overall recovery of the economy and in view of the aftermath of the pandemic, NATHEALTH advocates building healthcare system’s resilience and strengthening the healthcare infrastructure and overall delivery capacity will be the key.

Key recommendations

In the short- term recommendations submitted to the Government, NATHEALTH has highlighted the need for generating alternative models of care in de-congesting hospitals.

Expanding private insurance cover and ensure increased coverage through insurance particularly in tier 2-3 towns: This will help drive capacity growth and investments as out of pocket expenses are minimized and shock from catastrophic medical expenses are more easily absorbed. There are multiple opportunities to build asset light models powered by digital technologies in order to improve access and affordability with appropriate reimbursement and financing models to improve both in hospital and out of hospital care.

Provide low-cost financing: Declare healthcare as a National Priority sector and classifying it on the same lines as Agriculture (priority-sector lending), will give the banks flexibility to lend to private healthcare institutions on longer tenures, and at lower rates

Unlock working capital and reduce input tariff: Release locked health care sector working capital allowing investments in inventory of critical spare and lifesaving equipment. Reduce input costs to the sector and lift the duty/CESS on MedTech equipment which is adding costs to providers and a waiver of this tariff will be a reasonable step benefiting the citizens, at a time when global supply chains are tight and escalating inputs costs, freight and other logistics costs are an ever-increasing burden

Serving senior care and rehabilitation sector of India: A systemic reform initiative in the form of a national mission for ageing and a national senior online portal for focused elderly awareness & ease of access to senior services and taking urgent actions to introduce screening programmes to reduce the rising burden of NCDs in India.

Bringing in high-end technologies to improve health access: Leveraging digital technologies to implement innovative delivery models will have a major impact on healthcare in the near future. There is an opportunity to look at such models with a strategic intent and integrate them with traditional healthcare delivery services.

    • Telemedicine: All district hospitals should connect with advanced tertiary and quaternary care centers through Telemedicine
    • Pilot and scale up E-UPHCs program
    • Setting up of E-ICU for remote monitoring
    • Ensure nationwide admissibility of Facsimile Signature on diagnostic investigation report

Inclusion of homecare healthcare in healthcare services:  Home healthcare service providers should be categorized under “healthcare services” and should be exempted from the levy of service tax as per the Mega Exemption Notification

Unlock embedded taxes in healthcare, nearly 6% of input credit for service providers is trapped due to the blanket GST exemption status of the sector. Unlocking this credit will drive transparency, affordability, and confidence within the sector to drive up short- and medium-term employment.

NATHEALTH further emphasises on, addressing the issue of shortage of workforce by increasing seats in medical colleges, expanding the private insurance cover, channelising CSR funds to add beds, advanced machinery, and training of healthcare workers, investing in emergency ambulances and medical/testing infra for rural India where the pandemic is gaining grip, developing resilience in the rural and peri-urban areas, scaling up healthcare service access beyond metro cities through technology.

Dr Harsh Mahajan, Senior Vice President, NATHEALTH and Founder and Chief Radiologist Mahajan Imaging said, “In the aftermath of COVID, it is imperative to build infrastructural capabilities so that people can access quality and critical healthcare services. The pandemic has made us realise the need of equipping hospitals in tier 2 and 3 towns with adequate infrastructure such as diagnosis centers, ventilators and oxygen plants through increased budget outlay and greater investments. This will also add up in creating employment opportunities. The urgent need of the hour is to allocate funds and introduce medical education programmes that can address the shortage of skilled healthcare manpower in the country. The sector has not been able to derive the benefits of GST transition. In fact, the embedded taxes in the sector have increased in the post-GST regime compared to pre-GST scenario. Therefore, it is imperative to rationalise GST to unlock embedded credit trapped in healthcare value chain.”

Lauding the recently launched PM ABHIM scheme, Dr Mahajan added, “The scheme will help strengthen public health infrastructure in 10 high-focus states, especially in critical care facilities and primary care in both urban and rural areas, enabling the private sector to explore linkages to improve healthcare delivery in the country. The objective of these recommendations is to build a sustainable healthcare model that ensures quality healthcare services to all, while offering incentives to private healthcare organisations to increase investments in the sector. The recommendations also aim to support the recovery and sustenance of healthcare providers (small, medium, and large) and to drive policy consensus. The path to achieve a holistic goal of universal healthcare, hinges on collaboration where all stakeholders can work in unison to bridge the existing gaps in healthcare service delivery.”

Speaking on the recommendations, Dr Shravan Subramanyam, Senior Vice President NATHEALTH and Managing Director, Wipro GE Healthcare, said, “The pandemic brought about a radical shift in the way we look at medical emergencies, while also exposing the structural gaps in our health system. Evidently, healthcare is under-served and under-consumed. India needs a roadmap to create an inclusive and resilient medical infrastructure which can be accomplished only by raising investment (both public and private). COVID-19 pandemic also necessitated self-reliance for India, ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. For Indian medtech sector to be viable, NATHEALTH recommends waiving off the duty and CESS and releasing sectorial payment dues, to free up the working capital for investments in inventory of critical spare and lifesaving equipment. NATHEALTH believes that to scale-up and move towards Universal Healthcare Coverage, collaborative efforts from stakeholders across public and private sector will be pivotal.”

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