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Union Budget 2018: Allocation for healthcare inadequate, say activists

The National Health Protection Scheme is just another modified version of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. The budgetary allocation, however, is grossly short of what is required.

By: Express News Service | Pune |
Updated: February 2, 2018 2:19:36 am
healthcare india The Budget gives healthcare expenditure coverage for poor people and tax benefit for healthcare insurance for middleclass people. (Representational photo)

To achieve the public healthcare expenditure objectives of the National Health Policy, there is a need for an annual 40 per cent rise in government health expenditure. But the Budget shows an increase of only 12 per cent. The NRHM budget has been reduced by five per cent, activists with the Jan Arogya Abhiyan said.

Dr Anant Phadke, one of the coordinators of Jan Arogya Abhiyan, pointed out that instead of focusing on strengthening of government hospitals for secondary and tertiary care, the Budget gives healthcare expenditure coverage for poor people and tax benefit for healthcare insurance for middleclass people.

“This is continuation of the trend of promoting health insurance, which will benefit the intermediary health insurance industry and the private sector; a path which is contrary to the recommendation of the government’s High Level Expert Group (HLEG) on Universal Health Coverage,” Dr Phadke said.

Patients will be the least beneficiaries, activists say. The new National Health Protection Scheme to cover 50 crore poor people has an allocation of Rs 2,000 crore. This is a tokenish Rs 40 per capita compared to around Rs 4,000 per capita required for Universal Health Care, Dr Abhay Shukla, national convenor of Jan Arogya Abhiyan, said. The National Health Protection Scheme is just another modified version of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. The budgetary allocation, however, is grossly short of what is required, Dr Shukla said.

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While new medical colleges attached to district hospitals is a welcome step, there should not be any PPP with the private sector for opening new medical colleges as is being planned by the Maharashtra government, the activists point out. According to Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India, a mere 11.5 to 12 per cent increase in budgetary allocations for health is disappointing and discouraging especially with the announcement of schemes that require large sums of money.

“Despite the intention to improve the health status in the country, the financial commitment continues to be missing for translating these goals into action,” Muttreja said. For instance, the allocation for family welfare schemes under central sector schemes/projects, which is meant for procurement and distribution of contraceptives, have increased only marginally by 2 per cent (Rs 770 crore) over the budget (Rs 755 crore) last year. This will be insufficient not only to meet the future demand but will also fall short of the current demand for contraceptives and for improving the much needed quality of services, Muttreja added. Meanwhile, Dr Amita Phadnis, Director, ONP hospitals, said there could have been some announcements that could have helped the private sector to make medical care affordable to common people.

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