Buoyed by a significant increase in spending by states under the National Health Mission from 66 per cent to 79 per cent of the total funds, the health ministry has asked for Rs 40,000 crore in the Union Budget this year — a 21 per cent jump from last year’s allocation of Rs 33,152 crore.
Data compiled by the ministry on funds spent by the states on the flagship health mission till the end of the calendar year showed a phenomenal improvement in performance by some traditionally laggard states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (see box). Kerala, which is known to have a robust public health set-up, notched up an increase in spending in NHM from 51 per cent till December 2014 to 98 per cent spent till December 2015.
For the current financial year the total fund available to the states for NHM is Rs 19,289 crore. Of that, Rs 15,165 crore has already been spent by the states, which makes it a 79 per cent spending in the first three quarters of the year.
Poor spending by the states has been one of the reasons why health ministry has traditionally revised budgetary estimates in most programmes lower than the original Budget allocations, something that is known as “fund cuts”.
However, this time the RE (revised estimate) that has been communicated to the ministry for NHM is about Rs 18,295 crore which is the same as Budget estimate. There is Rs 800 crore increase in RE for the entire ministry, said sources.
“The latest figures of the National Family Health Survey too show a significant increase in various health indicators. All these make a powerful case for increasing the allocation for health,” said sources in the Ministry of Health.
There remain, though, a handful of states that buck the trend and where expenditure percentage under NHM has actually reduced. Bihar managed to spend only 46 per cent of its total NHM funds of Rs 1307.32 crore till December 2015.