As we prepare for the post-pandemic era, it is crucial to boost the economy through building and preparing a healthcare infrastructure so that people have greater access to quality and critical healthcare services. To achieve this vision, the Union Budget 2023-2024 should help fuel innovation, R&D, and healthcare expenditure as an investment into future human capital, which will set the pace for propelling the industry forward.
The government should consider zero-rating GST on healthcare services. It will ensure eligibility for input tax credits, which may help to reduce the cost of said services, and a refund of unutilized input tax credits should also be allowed to provide additional working capital to industry players. The input credit for GST paid can enable the healthcare providers to pass it on to the patients in the form of lower pricing and the services can be made accessible to patients in smaller towns. Along with this, it is important to address the shortage of healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, and technical staff) willing to work in Tier 2/3 cities and look at non-traditional ways to double the number of doctors.
In addition, the government should prioritize lower-cost financing through tax breaks for both existing and new healthcare projects. Also, they should provide a 15-year tax holiday for new projects and a 10-year tax break for existing projects as reinvestment support. Declaring healthcare, a national priority sector and classifying it along the same lines as agriculture (priority-sector lending) will allow banks to lend to private healthcare institutions for longer periods of time and at lower interest rates.
The future of healthcare has enormous opportunities for India to become a global healthcare destination.
The author is Ameera Shah, Promoter and Managing Director, Metropolis Healthcare Limited.