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'Accord National Priority Status To Healthcare'

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What are your expectations from the forthcoming Union Budget 2014 of NDA?
The budget should accord “National Priority” status for Healthcare. This would help create an attractive and enviable environment for domestic production of medical equipment, devices and consumables while also catalysing research and development apart from bridging the huge healthcare infrastructure deficit that is facing the country.

It is encouraging that the budget this year will focus on healthcare. At Apollo, our motivation has always been in our understanding that the human body is priceless and that every citizen should have access to affordable healthcare.

What is your expectation with regards to your sector?
One of the major costs incurred by the healthcare sector is “property lease rentals”. The government had exempted educational institutions from paying service tax on property rentals.  Since healthcare is also of high social importance, the Government may please consider a similar exemption for healthcare service providers including hospitals and pharmacies.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardio vascular diseases, cancer and diabetes can result in individual and/or familial poverty, thus contributing to the vicious cycle of poverty in developing countries such as India and pose a severe challenge to economic development. It is therefore essential to extend the minimum prescribed criteria of having a 100 bed capacity hospital for claiming benefit of 150% deduction under Section 35AD under the Income Tax Act to a 50 bedded specialty centre which is focused on treatment of NCDs.

As real estate costs form a substantial component of a hospital project, it is important for investors to establish & assess returns from the project separately as Returns from Capital invested on Land and building costs and Returns from Assets directly used in hospital operations such as medical equipment. Hence, enabling amendments are required for ensuring capital gains exemption for assets transferred to the Real Estate Company, dividend distribution tax and stamp duty concessions

Further, it is imperative at look at exempting the health care sector from the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) regime which practically negates the impact of accelerated depreciation benefit which is provided under Section 35AD of the Income Tax Act for new hospitals consisting of at least 100 beds. 
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The present limit of Rs 15,000 per annum towards Medical reimbursement was fixed in April 1999. Given the significant rise in cost inflation index in general (70% over the last 5 years) and medical inflation in particular, the limit needs to be enhanced to not less than Rs 100,000.
 
Our other suggestions include:

  • Extension of the duration of the Tax Holiday scheme from 5 years to 10 years for new hospitals
  • Introduction of a separate deduction in respect of preventive health checks
  • Increase in quantum of deduction towards payment of medical insurance premium
  • Introduction of a deduction for investment into long term bonds with a minimum tenor of 10 years issued for setting up hospitals with at least 100 beds
  • Introduction of an Insurance Policy for Elders (aged 55 and above) to cover specific health risks arising from vulnerabilities of old age
  • Setting up a “National Institute of Ageing” under MOHFW to promote healthy ageing, facilitate research and  provide health infrastructure for the elderly population
  • Allowing a Specific Exemption for Senior Citizens on income earned through Elders employment programmes
  • Instituting a Healthcare Savings Fund for all salaried employees similar to the PF scheme which would be tax deductible


What is your view on inclusive growth?

Inclusive growth is essential for the holistic growth of any nation. Although healthcare plays an essential role in a country’s development, it is important to understand that other sectors like public services, education and market place availability also play a crucial role. It is only when all services work in tandem and complements each other, both in urban and rural areas, that we can witness sustainable and profitable growth.

With appropriate support from government we should strive to remove poverty from our land altogether.It is essential that India and Indian citizens experience world class healthcare standards, as Indians deserve the best. I believe the poor need to be empowered over the long term through education, jobs and world-class healthcare wherein appreciation and understanding are realised at all levels of people that quality comes at a cost.

How is infrastructure development possible without compromising environment?

While it is true that technology has become an integral part in delivering world class healthcare, we must remain conscious of our actions and the implications they may have on the environment. We at Apollo Hospitals have advocated the use of a paperless healthcare environment and with the use of IT capabilities now maintain an advanced electronic patient record environment, which has also helped reduce any medication errors.


With regards to taxation what can the corporate sector expect from this Budget?

With regard to the healthcare sector , the expectations are as follows :

The government should also look at exempting the healthcare sector from the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) regime which practically negates the impact of accelerated depreciation benefit which is provided under Section 35AD of the Income Tax Act for new hospitals consisting of at least 100 beds. 

The duration of the Tax Holiday Scheme for new hospitals should be increased from 5 years to 10 years and ambit should also be enhanced to include all new facilities including those which offer diagnostic and ambulatory services such as Clinics, Eye Hospitals and Day Care surgery centres apart from all PPP Healthcare initiatives across all locations in the country. The government should also consider exempting healthcare from paying service tax on property rentals.

It is essential to extend the minimum prescribed criteria of having a 100 bed capacity hospital for claiming benefit of 150 per cent deduction under Section 35AD under the Income Tax Act to a 50 bedded specialty centre which is focused on treatment of NCDs.

What is your take on Hospitals of the Future: Intelligent infrastructure to reduce operating costs and improve patient care?
With technological advancements making a huge impact in almost every sector under the sun, the healthcare sector would not be   far behind. It is only a matter of time before smart systems and intelligent theaters become fully integrated into hospitals. With every aspect of the hospital, including power, heating, ventilation, building management and others connected and assed in real-time, not only can we ensure better delivery and optimized care, we can also check and assess the wastage of resources, and tackle them effectively.

What has been the CSR initiative of Apollo Hospitals ?
Apollo Hospitals has a rich legacy of social initiatives. The Save a Child’s Heart Initiative (SACHi) and the Society to Aid the Hearing Impaired (SAHI) are two initiatives supported by Apollo Hospitals – as is CURE – an initiative for cancer prevention, cure and rehabilitation.

Billion Hearts Beating – is a campaign supported by Apollo that touched the hearts of our nation. It was aimed at raising heart health awareness through a 360 degree communication campaign. Since the launch of the campaign more than 3.5 lakh individuals have taken a pledge to take care of their hearts through this program.

How is Apollo leveraging Technology Innovations to drive improvements in healthcare
Apollo, since its inception, has advocated the use of innovative technology for the betterment of people’s health. We are pioneers among hospitals in India, having introduced cutting edge technologies like PET-MR Suite, 320 Slice CT- Angio scan system and the 64 Slice CT-Angio scan system, CyberKnife Robotic Radio surgery, G (Gravity) Scan, the da vinci Surgical System and Renaissance Robotic Surgical System to name a few to India and South Asia for the first time. Bringing world class healthcare to our citizens, where they can access path breaking technology to diagnose and cure illnesses is what drives Apollo Hospitals.

In 1999, Apollo introduced Telemedicine as a means to enhance the geographical reach of quality healthcare – and to leverage this technology to overcome the shortage of specialists especially in non-metro locations. Subsequently, Apollo has also worked with telecom providers to leverage mobile technology and the wide reach of mobiles to provide m-health.