- The Union Budget has been presented in Parliament on Friday 1st February, 2019
- In the health sector, the Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme has received the highest priority
- Other areas were comparatively less prioritized and received much less funding
The Union Budget was presented in the Lok Sabha of Parliament on Friday 1st February 2019 by Finance Minister, Piyush Goyal. This Interim Budget is the last Budget of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government, prior to the General Elections scheduled for April-May, 2019. This year's Budget has doled out many benefits and incentives for the middle class. It largely focuses on tax reforms, banking reforms, farmer's welfare schemes, women empowerment, pension schemes for the unorganized sector, and schemes for rural development, among others.
India is currently a vibrant economy and is the 6th largest economy in the world. The average inflation has come down to 4.6 percent, while the fiscal deficit is down to 3.4 percent.
In this regard, the Finance Minister optimistically says: "We are poised to become a five trillion dollar economy in the next five years; we aspire to become a 10 trillion dollar economy in the next ten years."
Impact on the Health Sector: Key HighlightsThe Interim Budget has allocated Rs. 61,398 crore for the health sector in 2019-20 fiscal, of which Rs. 6,400 crores has been earmarked for the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), popularly called Ayushman Bharat. The health outlay for 2019-20 is the highest in the last two financial years and has increased by 16 percent over the 2018-19 allocation of Rs. 52,800 crore. In spite of this, there are certain 'Plus Points' and 'Minus Points' of this Interim Budget with reference to its allocation for the health sector. These are briefly highlighted below:
- 'Health' Becomes a National Priority: 'Healthy India' has been included as one of the 10 key priorities in the government's vision for the next decade
- Boost for Ayushman Bharat: Ayushman Bharat, which is the world's largest health insurance scheme, has been allocated Rs. 6,400 crore, which is an increase of Rs. 4,000 crore
- Price Reduction for Medical Equipment: Prices of medicines, stents used in cardiac surgery, and artificial implants for knee replacement surgery have been reduced
- 'Digital India' Becoming a Reality: Around 1 lakh villages will receive internet connections and be converted into 'Digital Villages' in the next five years. This will increase accessibility to health information
- 'AI' Hub in the Pipeline: A National Center for Artificial Intelligence will soon be set-up as a hub along with Centers of Excellence. This could have many health applications
- Open Defecation Reduced: Approximately 5.83 lakh villages are free from open defecation
- New AIIMS to be Set-up: The 22nd All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) will be coming up in Rewari, Haryana. This will have facilities for both undergraduate and postgraduate medical education in all its branches
- Health Budget Still Dismally Low: India's health budget is just 2 percent, which is five times lower than the defense budget
- Ayushman Bharat's Negative Side: Ayushman Bharat only covers selective in-patient care and totally ignores out-patient care, which accounts for the bulk of healthcare expenditure and out-of-pocket expenses of patients
- Insufficient Funds for HWC: Only Rs. 1,600 crore has been allocated for upgrading 1.5 lakh Sub-centers (SC) and Primary Health Centers (PHC) into Health & Wellness Centers (HWC) by 2022, which is insignificant
- Underfunding of NHM: National Health Mission (NHM) remains underfunded in spite of a marginal increase in allocation from Rs. 30,683 crore in 2018-19 to Rs. 31,745 crore in 2019-20
- RCH Funds Reduced: The Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) Flexible Pool (Rs. 6,758 crores) has been reduced by Rs. 512 crores compared to 2018-19 (Rs. 7,270 crores)
Concluding RemarksAbhijit More, Conveyor of the Jan Arogya Abhiyan, says: "Overall the budget of Health and Family Welfare Ministry is increased from Rs. 54,302 crore to Rs. 61,398 crore i.e. a 12.9 percent increase. But the major chunk is being allocated to Ayushman Bharat." He adds: "This means that the major money will go into private healthcare service providers. Public sector service providers at the grassroots level and augmenting these types of services, is missing in this budget too."
On a more optimistic note, the Finance Minister, referring to the government's vision for a 'Healthy India' in the next decade, says: "We will be aiming at a healthy society with an environment of health assurance and the support of necessary health infrastructure." He adds: "By 2030, we will work towards distress-free healthcare and a functional and comprehensive wellness system for all. Such a healthy India will be built with the participation of women having equal rights and concern for their safety and empowerment."
- Union Budget 2019: A Review of Major Health Highlights - (https://m.dailyhunt.in/news/india/english/my+medical+mantra+english-epaper-medmanen/union+budget+2019+a+review
- Budget 2019: Underfunding of National Health Mission Continues - (https://www.thewire.in/health/budget-2019-underfunding-of-national-health-mission-continues)
- Budget 2019: Highlights of the Healthcare Sector - (https://www.news18.com/news/ivideos/budget-2019-highlights-of-the-healthcare-sector-%E2%80%8B-2022319.html)