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Industry seeks increase in health budget to at least 3% of GDP

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is likely to announce the Union Budget 2024 on July 24, 2024. Ahead of the Union Budget 2024, industry leaders in the healthcare sector are expecting substantial increase in the overall health budget.

Bhanu Prakash Kalmath S J, Partner, Grant Thornton Bharat told Financial Express.com that while the Interim Budget 2024 offered a glimpse of the government’s healthcare priorities with initiatives like coverage of ASHA workers and Anganwadi workers and helpers in Ayushman Bharat Scheme, the U-WIN immunization platform and the cervical cancer vaccination drive, the upcoming full budget presents an opportunity for further progress toward the goal of ‘Viksit Bharat’.

“We hope for a substantial increase in the overall health budget to reach at least 3 percent of GDP to address existing gaps comprehensively. Strengthening rural healthcare infrastructure and expanding the reach and coverage of Ayushman Bharat, would be a significant step towards further bringing down the out-of-pocket medical expenditure and ensuring Universal Health Coverage,” Kalmath said.

He also said that building rural healthcare and social infrastructure remains a critical priority, as it will improve access to quality care, encourage healthy living, and also create employment opportunities.

According to Kalmath, preventive healthcare is a cornerstone of a healthy nation; therefore, increased funding for sanitation and nutrition programs, along with a continued focus on non-communicable diseases through targeted interventions and awareness campaigns, can significantly reduce the burden of curative care.

“By embracing technology for early detection and improved access to specialists, we can unlock the full potential of our healthcare system. We expect that the upcoming budget will prioritize these crucial areas, paving the way for a healthier India,” he told Financial Express.com.

Meanwhile, Girish Korde, Founder & Director, Sunrise Oncology Centre also said that he is expecting an increased allocation of budget towards healthcare.

“Topmost priority should be allocated towards the improvement of healthcare infrastructure to ensure access to remote locations as well. These areas either need the upgradation of existing infrastructure or the provision of new medical infrastructure. Logically – the next priority has to be the availability of skilled manpower to deliver healthcare,” Korde told Financial Express.com.

Technology plays a key role, especially when a manpower shortage is seen. Hence, the inclusion of technology should be the focus for remote monitoring, healthcare delivery, access to experts, digital health records, etc.

“Lastly, we actually need to focus on “health” care instead of “disease”care. Hence, increased focus on preventive care is important – especially for a young population in a country like India. Last but not the least, schemes like Ayushman Bharat should see increased penetration and overall an increased population getting access to insurance,” he added. The Financial Express

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