Beyond references to Swachh Bharat and increase in tax exemption for health insurance, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget speech steered clear of any new announcements in the sector. He was also silent on his last year’s announcements of “health for all” and free drugs and diagnostics services which, given the meagre increase in health allocation, are likely to remain pipe dreams in the next fiscal too.
The total allocation to the health sector was Rs 33,152 crore, a jump of 10 per cent from last year’s allocation of Rs 30,645 crore. It is a far cry from the Rs 50,000 crore that the ministry had asked for.
Jaitley said AIIMS will be set up in J&K, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Assam. There will also be a second AIIMS-like institute in poll-bound Bihar.
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The allocation for health research remained stagnant at around Rs 1,018 crore. Allocation for the department of AIDS control is down by Rs 400 crore to Rs 1,397 crore. Rs 1,214 was allocated for AYUSH, even though the department spent just Rs 700 crore last year.
The limit of deduction in income tax for health insurance premium went up to Rs 25,000 from the current Rs 15,000. For senior citizens, it will be 30,000. However, Jaitley did get some cheers from the anti-tobacco lobby for his decision to hike excise duty on cigarettes. “A welcome move, but why do bidis remain exempted from any tax hike?,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, consultant at Tata Memorial Hospital Mumbai.