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World's Largest Healthcare Programme Announces At Union Budget 2018

The government needs to provide adequate funding to improve the quality of healthcare services through better awareness, education and accessibility

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Budget 2018: A mega health insurance scheme was launched aiming to cover 4 out of 10 Indians. The core idea of the scheme is to bring 'healthcare closer to home' by creating health and wellness centres. These centres, 1.5 lakh in number, will bring health care system closer to the homes of people. These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services. These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. Wellness centre and preventive care for masses have been far too neglected in India and the current plan will play a big role in starting this. PPP delivery models are possible with the stimulus which will help to create a sustainable model.

National Health Protection Scheme to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage up to 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.

This is one the most superlative Budget for a much-needed boost for Indian Healthcare and will go a long way in improving health and social status in India. It would simultaneously create tremendous job and employment opportunities, thus boosting our soci-economic status of the country. 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' 
Launching the new scheme 'Modicare', termed on lines of Obamacare 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.

Were our expectations fulfilled? 
Cracks and Falls of the Budget for 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. The budget needs to give the stimulus to the creation of paramedic force, caregivers, community care centre development. We expected the budget to cover the aspects of Homecare, Insurance for Elderly and Stimulus to create paramedic manpower. Private players need to be incentivized to form new business models.

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. Budget 2018 could have realized savings by better managing heavily privatized areas of care like home care and facility-based continuing care. Every patient properly placed in continuing care instead of occupying hospital beds saves the system money. 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.

The burden of chronic diseases is felt massively. Sedentary lifestyles, diet changes, and rising obesity levels is an alarming concern. It is estimated that lifestyle diseases will account for a whopping 74% of total deaths by 2030 (compared with 56% in 2008) with Cardiovascular, Cancer and Diabetes accounting for a majority of the disease burden. The  Government should have thrown more light on the need and emergency of homecare establishments to combat ageing issues and for palliative care and other long recovery and special care cases. It is seen that many states still do not have access to home care. Basically, the Government failed to encourage the alternative delivery access for all.

Why do these budgets and Government initiatives fail?

The prime reasons for the failure of policy commitments are 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. For its success, Healthcare should be given a priority sector tag. This will help channelize funds from the banking sector to create necessary healthcare infrastructure. Provide tax benefits for setting up healthcare infrastructure in Tier 3 and 4 cities as well as rural areas.

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. It is now the responsibility of 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.

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. The said budget is positive to completely revolutionize the way health care will be delivered. However, the Government needs to support the entire healthcare ecosystem in the country, not ignoring the homecare providers. This will help in moving towards the ultimate goal of universal health coverage. Professionals from the homecare sector and peak bodies are calling for the Government to increase the availability of high-level home care packages. We hope to see the Government functioning and encouraging the homecare players in chalking out health and wellness plans.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Union Budget 2018 healthcare

Vipin Pathak

The author is Founder & CEO, Care24

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