by Vipin Pathak, CEO & Co-founder of Care24
Budget 2018: Mr. Arun Jaitley announces ‘world’s largest healthcare programme’
A mega health insurance scheme which aimed to cover 4out of 10 Indians was one of the highlights of the 2018 Union budget. The idea of bringing ‘healthcare closer to home’ by creating health and wellness centres was announced by Mr. Arun Jaitley, the Union Finance minister. These centres, 1.5 lakh in number, will provide free vital drugs and diagnostic services. Wellness center and preventive care for masses has been far too neglected in India and the current plan will play a big role in starting this. PPP delivery models is possible with the stimulus which will help creating a sustainable model. Health and wellness centres will bring healthcare closer and more accessible to people.
One of the best budget for a much needed boost for Indian Healthcare
National Health Protection Scheme covering 10 crore vulnerable families, with approximately 50 crore beneficiaries and providing a health insurance cover of ₹5 lakh a family per annum. will go a long way in improving health and social status in India. Additionally, it would create tremendous job and employment opportunities. In the recent moves from Government which included price control, stricter regulations on service providers, people feared stance of government on healthcare in general. The current budget proves the seriousness of our government for the healthcare sector. The budget was a clear indicator that we are slowly but surely progressing towards a successful universal health coverage.
‘Modicare’ shines on ‘Homecare’
On lines of Obamacare, our respected Finance minister Arun Jaitley launched the new scheme termed as ‘Modicare’ which will aim to offer family health insurance up to five lakhs rupees per year and cover over hundred million vulnerable families thus benefitting about 500 million people. This scheme will cover both secondary and tertiary care hospitalization too and thus nominates to be the world’s largest government-funded healthcare programme. These steps, schemes and supports will be an add-on feather to the Modi Government.
Expectations unfulfilled, the cracks in the budget for home healthcare
We were expecting an effective push for larger Insurance products for 100 million+ elderly population and for coverage beyond hospitalization cover like Homecare, Step down care, Rehabilitation Centers etc. By 2050, 1 out of 5 Indian would be 65years+, Elderly health is an alarming concern and India as a country needs to be prepared to take care of its elderly population. Budget needs to give stimulus to creation of paramedic force, caregivers, community care center development. We expect next budget to cover the aspects of Homecare, Insurance for Elderly and Stimulus to create paramedic manpower.
The budget failed to focus on allocation of adequate resources and funds for skill upgradation of not only doctors but also nurses, attendants and caregivers too. There is also a dire need to introduce new innovations in the home healthcare segment, and encourage the availability of care at home, thus freeing up hospital beds and helping patients recover at their homes at a lower cost. Greater emphasis should have been given on spreading awareness about healthcare especially geriatric and palliative care, in semi-urban and rural areas as this is developing to be a highly needed service with the changing demographics and disease patterns. There are growing concerns about increase in non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart related ailments, diabetes among others and we expect that government will focus on addressing these diseases. The Government should have shown more dominance and thrown more light on the need and emergency of homecare establishments considering the rising population and equally rising diseases in the country. Basically we will have to encourage alternative delivery access for all.
Why do these budgets and Government initiatives fail?
The prime reasons for the failure of policy commitments is the inadequate budgetary allocations and lack of coordination between the centre and states in the planning process resulting in inefficient spending. Budget and schemes are launched but with less or nil emphasis on target-driven measures. Not considering all the players of the healthcare system while formulating initiatives and schemes has proved to be a major loophole in the success of the healthcare policies.
Conclusion: Will the Government and the new budget succeed?
The government needs to provide adequate funding to improve the quality of healthcare services through better awareness, education and accessibility. The spotlight is now on the government to match its commitments with adequate budgetary allocations and effective spending. To produce better and improved health outcomes, it is extremely important to bring in efficiency in the use of resources.
It is clear that the Government has decided to take health protection to greater heights and is an indicator of India’s leap towards universal health coverage. Speaking for the home healthcare sector we feel truly encouraged that the Government is recognizing that greater investments in health care are critical for the development of our economy. Supporting the entire healthcare ecosystem in the country, not ignoring the homecare providers will help in moving towards the ultimate goal of universal health coverage.