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NEW DELHI: Healthcare emerged as the buzzword of the 2018-19 Budget, mainly due to
the announcement of the Rs 5-lakh healthcare insurance each for 10 crore families+
, but the sector didn’t get mega allocations. For one, the total budget of the health ministry stands at Rs 56,226 crore — an increase of 12% over the previous year.
The National Health Policy 2017 indicated that health expenditure would increase to 2.5% of GDP, but the goal is still far (it is 1.2% of the GDP right now).
For another, National Health Mission (NHM) — the flagship scheme — has actually seen a decline in allocation. While Rs 30801.56 crore was spent on NHM in 2017-18, this year’s allocation is Rs 30129.61 crore.
Read FM Arun Jaitley’s full budget speech
“Only Swasth Bharat can be a Samriddha Bharat. India cannot realise its demographic dividend without its citizens being healthy,” said finance minister Arun Jaitley before making what he later called “mega” health announcements.
Among these were an allocation of Rs 12,000 crore for 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres. These centres — the “foundation of India’s health system” — will provide maternal and child health services as well as free essential drugs and diagnostics.
Aiming for one medical college for every three parliamentary constituencies, government also announced plans to set up 24 new colleges and upgrade existing district hospitals. It also allocated Rs 600 crore for nutritional support to all tuberculosis patients at Rs 500 per month during the treatment.
The National Health Protection Scheme aimed at universal coverage, in particular, came in for praise from the WHO. “The WHO has been advocating for this,” said the UN body’s regional director for south-east Asia Poonam Khetrapal Singh. The scheme will be cashless, said officials. It replaces the 2008 Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana for BPL families and provided annual coverage of Rs 30,000.
However, former consultant to Union health minister Dr Sunil Nandraj pointed out that the allocation for the insurance scheme is Rs 2,000 crore. “This is far from adequate to cover the health premium for 10 crore families,” he said. Dr Abhay Shukla, national convener of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said, “If the allocation is meant for 50 crore people, then the premium works out to Rs 40 for each.”
Dr Ravi Duggal, country coordinator for International Budget Partnership, said the allocation for health has been disappointing. “Last year, the Budget increase for health was 25%,” he said.
“If we compare with last year’s revised estimate, then the healthcare hike has been a mere 2.4%,” said Dr Duggal.
Dr Abhay Shukla, national convener of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, said it’s “negligible” if inflation is considered. Dr Shukla also said the National Urban Health Mission has been given short shrift. “Its allocation is less than Rs 1,000 crore, while the rural mission is over Rs 25,000 crore,” he said, adding that urban costs are higher.