The health sector representatives have called for higher health expenditure in the upcoming Budget 2021-22 to provide for universal insurance, upskilling of doctors and nurses, research activities and strengthening of overall health infrastructure in their meeting with finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
“The government is very receptive. We believe that the pandemic is not over yet and this is not going to be the last pandemic. We need to be prepared,” Naresh Trehan, chairman of Medanta and CII Healthcare Council said.
Trehan said that the government needs to create provisions for improving healthcare access at the grassroot level and create an early warning system. “We have requested the finance ministry to raise the allocation for health in the budget and provide sector specific benefits to healthcare on the same lines as telecom or MSMEs.”
He also said that interactions between the medical technology companies and healthcare providers should be leveraged by the government in promoting the Atmanirbhar Bharat programme.
Earlier, the Fifteenth Finance Commission, chairman, N K Singh, had said the combined public spending by both the Centre and the states on health should go up to 2.5 per cent of the gross domestic product by 2024 as against 0.9 per cent currently. .
According to government officials, the health outlay will have to rise significantly not just in respect of the vaccine expense but also for creation of supporting infrastructure and distribution channels.
In the first half of FY21, about 58 per cent of the Rs 67,111 crore allocated to the ministry of health and family welfare for the fiscal has been utilised. Within that, the department of health research has already exceeded Budget allocation of Rs 2,100 crore by 7 per cent. As of September, the department had utilised Rs 2,248 crore. The department had utilised only 52 per cent of the Budget allocation by this time last year.
As part of the third stimulus package announced earlier this month, Sitharaman had allocated Rs 900 crore for research and development towards Covid-19 vaccine. This was besides the cost of vaccine and logistics for its distribution. “Whatever is required for that (the vaccine cost and distribution logistics), as and when it is required, will be provided,” Sitharaman had said.