Union Budget 2022: NATHEALTH submits its recommendation to govt

The leading healthcare association has provided suggestions on strengthening healthcare infrastructure and delivery capacity, rebuilding sectorial resilience, and expanding critical care services beyond metros while expanding the ambit of healthcare financing

New Delhi: NATHEALTH has submitted a comprehensive set of recommendations to the Government for the financial budget 2022-23. As per the leading healthcare association, the prime objective in a pandemic period should be to catalyze creation of new healthcare infrastructure backed by commensurate investments to expand CC/ICU Infra in hospitals and diagnostic labs and ambulatory/home care infra outside hospitals.
In the short- term recommendations submitted to the Government, NATHEALTH has highlighted the need for generating alternative models of care in de-congesting hospitals.
  • Expanding private insurance cover and ensure increased coverage through insurance particularly in tier 2-3 towns: This will help drive capacity growth and investments as out of pocket expenses are minimized and shock from catastrophic medical expenses are more easily absorbed. There are multiple opportunities to build asset light models powered by digital technologies in order to improve access and affordability with appropriate reimbursement and financing models to improve both in hospital and out of hospital care.
  • Provide low-cost financing: Declare healthcare as a National Priority sector and classifying it on the same lines as Agriculture (priority-sector lending), will give the banks flexibility to lend to private healthcare institutions on longer tenures, and at lower rates
  • Unlock working capital and reduce input tariff: Release locked health care sector working capital allowing investments in inventory of critical spare and lifesaving equipment. Reduce input costs to the sector and lift the duty/CESS on MedTech equipment which is adding costs to providers and a waiver of this tariff will be a reasonable step benefiting the citizens, at a time when global supply chains are tight and escalating inputs costs, freight and other logistics costs are an ever-increasing burden
  • Serving senior care and rehabilitation sector of India: A systemic reform initiative in the form of a national mission for ageing and a national senior online portal for focused elderly awareness & ease of access to senior services and taking urgent actions to introduce screening programmes to reduce the rising burden of NCDs in India.
  • Bringing in high-end technologies to improve health access: Leveraging digital technologies to implement innovative delivery models will have a major impact on healthcare in the near future. There is an opportunity to look at such models with a strategic intent and integrate them with traditional healthcare delivery services.
    • Telemedicine: All district hospitals should connect with advanced tertiary and quaternary care centers through Telemedicine
    • Pilot and scale up E-UPHCs program
    • Setting up of E-ICU for remote monitoring
    • Ensure nationwide admissibility of Facsimile Signature on diagnostic investigation report
  • Inclusion of homecare healthcare in healthcare services:  Home healthcare service providers should be categorized under “healthcare services” and should be exempted from the levy of service tax as per the Mega Exemption Notification
  • Unlock embedded taxes in healthcare, nearly 6% of input credit for service providers is trapped due to the blanket GST exemption status of the sector. Unlocking this credit will drive transparency, affordability, and confidence within the sector to drive up short- and medium-term employment.
NATHEALTH further emphasizes on, addressing the issue of shortage of workforce by increasing seats in medical colleges, expanding the private insurance cover, channelizing CSR funds to add beds, advanced machinery, and training of healthcare workers, investing in emergency ambulances and medical/testing infra for rural India where the pandemic is gaining grip, developing resilience in the rural and peri-urban areas, scaling up healthcare service access beyond metro cities through technology.
Dr. Harsh Mahajan, Senior Vice President, NATHEALTH and Founder and Chief Radiologist Mahajan Imaging said, “In the aftermath of COVID, it is imperative to build infrastructural capabilities so that people can access quality and critical healthcare services. The pandemic has made us realise the need of equipping hospitals in tier 2 and 3 towns with adequate infrastructure such as diagnosis centers, ventilators and oxygen plants through increased budget outlay and greater investments. This will also add up in creating employment opportunities. The urgent need of the hour is to allocate funds and introduce medical education programmes that can address the shortage of skilled healthcare manpower in the country. The sector has not been able to derive the benefits of GST transition. In fact, the embedded taxes in the sector have increased in the post-GST regime compared to pre-GST scenario. Therefore, it is imperative to rationalize GST to unlock embedded credit trapped in healthcare value chain.”
Speaking on the recommendations, Dr. Shravan Subramanyam, Senior Vice President NATHEALTH and Managing Director, Wipro GE Healthcare, said, “The pandemic brought about a radical shift in the way we look at medical emergencies, while also exposing the structural gaps in our health system. Evidently, healthcare is under-served and under-consumed. India needs a roadmap to create an inclusive and resilient medical infrastructure which can be accomplished only by raising investment (both public and private). COVID-19 pandemic also necessitated self-reliance for India, ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. For Indian MedTech sector to be viable, NATHEALTH recommends waiving off the duty and CESS and releasing sectorial payment dues, to free up the working capital for investments in inventory of critical spare and lifesaving equipment. NATHEALTH believes that to scale-up and move towards Universal Healthcare Coverage, collaborative efforts from stakeholders across public and private sector will be pivotal.”