Budget 2018: India takes its big leap towards universal health coverage

The focus on improving public healthcare in the union budget 2018 has been widely hailed by most of stakeholders as well as the general public

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New Delhi: The Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley has announced two new initiatives under the ‘Ayushman Bharat Program’ in the Union Budget 2018.

Under the programme, Mr Jaitley announced a new Flagship National Health Protection Scheme, providing health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year. The scheme will cover 10 crore, vulnerable families, with approximately 50 crore beneficiaries.

Finance minister said that India is slowly progressing towards universal health coverage and that the scheme will be the world’s largest healthcare programme.

Mr Jaitley also announced the creation of Health and Wellness centres, which will “bring healthcare closer to home”. These centres, 1.5 lakh in number, will provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. For this purpose, the government has allocated Rs 1200 crores in the budget.

In his post budget comments, Dr Prathap Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals mentioned, “My heartiest congratulations to this government for investing in creating a swasth bharat by launching the Ayushman Bharat programme. Such ambitious out of the box thinking was a burning need of the hour and the government has not disappointed. The initiative to cover 10 crore families with 5 lakh per family/per year with insurance cover for secondary and tertiary healthcare will be a gamechanger.”

In her reaction, Ms Pompy Sridhar, India Director, MSD for Mothers said, “The National Health Protection Plan is a much needed scheme and has the potential to improve access to quality healthcare for the vulnerable population. There is a need to develop innovative strategies to improve the quality of care a woman receives regardless of where that care takes place, the public or the private facility. We also need to ensure that the right incentives for quality are entrenched in the system. Health financing and quality assurance efforts must work in tandem to ensure that services are adequate and affordable.”

Mr Rajiv Mathur, Founder, Critical care Unified(CCU) – home healthcare service provider said that it was encouraging to see that the government has laid strong emphasis on Healthcare by announcing the World’s Largest Health Protection Plan. “We are confident that progressively, similar importance will be given to Home Healthcare which is fast becoming an important element in the health Management value chain,” he added.

Mr Arindam Haldar, CEO, SRL Diagnostics congratulated the government for focusing on common man of India in this budget by announcing various schemes across sectors. “The announcement of universal health insurance at Rs 5 lakh medical cover per year for 10 crore poor families across the country, is an appreciable step. Also, the allocation of Rs 1,200 crore for health and wellness centres clearly indicates that health sector has received utmost priority in this budget.” He added further, “Also, specific focus on the diagnostics sector would have been of great benefit to supplement primary healthcare machinery. Nevertheless, we welcome the various health initiatives announced by the government in which limelight has been shed on the alarming rise of non-communicable and communicable diseases in India.”