By: Dr. Kaushik Murali, Paediatric Ophthalmologist & President, Sankara Eye Hospital.
Healthcare sector has been a clear priority in budget 2018. There has been a good balance of short-term respite from out of pocket health costs & building capacity in the long term.
The Ayushman Bharath the scheme to provide health coverage to 50 crore Indians of Rs 5 lakhs is simply audacious in scale and reach and could be a game changer. Healthcare needs to be universally accessible and also start from preventive care. This should be taken care of with the proposed 1.5 lakh health & wellness centers.
The idea to increase the number of doctors is good with the 24 district hospitals being upgraded, however strengthening of the other postgraduate programmes like the DNB course would also need to be done simultaneously. Health can be one of the key job creators. More focus on the Skill India initiative with these announcements should see this sector contribute in this area too.
We hope that other announcements like the Pradhan Mantri Research Fellowship & the Research allocation would also spur healthcare research. With 1200 crores to the National Health Policy, we look forward to a continued impetus to the National Programme for Control of Blindness which is one of the most successful Public – Private healthcare programmes.
It would be interesting to see how these would be funded, the finance minister indicated a widening of the tax base and an additional 1% cess, we only hope that the 3.5% fiscal deficit does not force a rethink on these allocations later. Also, it would be good to expand the ease of doing business to ease of working with insurance & schemes and simplifying the process for healthcare providers.