The Union Budget 2018–19 announced by the finance minister on February 1, 2018 is certainly ambitious. Ayushman Bharat, promises to bring over 100 million families under a health insurance scheme with a cover upto Rs 5 lakh. This would require an allocation of Rs 5000 crore in year 1, and Rs 10,000 crore in year 2. Also, the creation of 150,000 health and wellness centers will provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services. An amount of Rs 1200 crore has been allocated for this.
How will this translate into reality is the big question? How can Rs 1200 crore be sufficient for 150,000 centers, when the cost of operationalizing one health and wellness center is Rs 1.7 lakh? The allocation for the National Health Mission is down by 2.1 percent, from Rs 31,292 crore to Rs 30,634 crore; is the Rs 1200 crore being taken from this reduced NHM outlay?
The Make in India scheme did not even get a nudge, leave alone a push in the budget. With medical equipment imports as high as 70 percent of the country’s requirement, amounting to Rs 27,300 crore, a policy with a nominal import duty on critical items, which can be made in India and where Indian buyers turn to cheaper imports cannot be termed as a prudent one.
A margin of preference must be granted to domestically manufactured products, no doubt with a caveat of specified minimum local content and defined quality standards. The industry’s proposal, tariff correction with a basic customs duty of 15 percent on medical devices with an export turnover of more than Rs 100 crore, a 7.5 percent on export turnover from
Rs 10–100 crore, 5 percent for less than Rs 5 crore, and 2.5–5 percent on selected parts or accessories; restriction of import of pre-owned and refurbished medical equipment; and implementation of the BIS Act and quality management system till a strong regulatory regime is formed; must be given top priority to get manufacturing back on track.
We look forward to meeting our readers at Medical Fair India, being held from March 16 to 18 in Mumbai.