The Coronavirus crisis has brought healthcare to the forefront of people’s and policymakers’ minds. In the past couple of years, the government has taken many initiatives to facilitate easy access to healthcare services and to enable the sector to grow.
The government has announced schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, but a lot still needs to be done. There is also a significant disconnect between rural and urban India. We are hoping that in the current Budget, the finance minister will address these and other notable issues the sector is grappling with.
Increased government spending on healthcare
While COVID-19 is currently under control, but one must consider the possibility of a new variant or the cases rising again. If this happens, the health capital will get tested at the individual as well as social levels. As a country, we should be well prepared for the same. To achieve this, the healthcare expenditure done by the government should increase as a percentage of GDP. This expenditure is still under 1.2-1.3% and needs to be increased substantially.
Developing a robust public health system
Along with increasing the spending and focusing on infrastructure development, the focus of the current Budget should be on the unmet needs of marginalised populations and areas. Keeping the interest of this sect, more funds should get allocated to rural medical system upgradation.
With the intent on moving taxpayers to the simplified regime, the finance minister is expected to announce a new tax regime. This new regime’s health insurance exemptions should be increased from Rs 25,000. In addition, we must prioritise introducing a dental insurance policy that is accessible, affordable, and comprehensive for all. This would raise awareness about dental treatments and allow people to get treatment in time. The government must introduce a national dental insurance policy that is collective & inclusive for all walks of life. Dentists, healthcare providers, insurance giants, and the government must come on board to formulate this policy.
Innovating our way forward
India is known not just for its quality healthcare but also innovations. The government should have a more significant outlay for research and development in this upcoming budget. Steps should be taken to develop an environment conducive to innovation. The PLI schemes have helped India become a big Make In India destination. Similar schemes should also be introduced for the healthcare segment to incentive innovation.
Taxes on medical products
To overlay this thought, it becomes vital for the government to reduce taxes on medical products. This is also true for dental and medical equipment. Increased taxes on products bought and imported goods compel dentists to either overprice services or provide subpar treatment alternatives. Reducing GST on this will enable them to offer the best treatment to their patients.
India is amongst the most preferred destinations globally for medical tourism. Therefore, increased policy support is required to encourage, facilitate medical value travel to India, and develop medical value travel as an organised sector. India has tremendous potential for dental medical tourism. Many foreigners come to India for quality dental treatment at a fraction of the cost. Government should take steps to encourage this even further.
We have all heard the age-old saying that prevention is better than cure. To promote preventive healthcare, the government, in the current budget, should increase the allocation for preventive health checkups. As per the existing slabs, individuals who undergo preventive health checkups can enjoy tax deductions of up to Rs 5,000 per year under section 80D. This limit should be increased to at least Rs 15,000. Apart from this, the government should also focus on improving testing facilities or diagnostic services in Rural India so that people in these regions don’t have to travel far to get their tests done.
Overall, we expect an inclusive budget that helps strengthen our medical infrastructure and promotes innovation.
Sameer Merchant is the CEO of Illusion Dental Labs & Illusion Aligners.
Edited by Megha Reddy
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)