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Interim budget 2024: healthcare highlights

The interim budget 2024 of India has several positives for the healthcare sector. (Image: Canva)
Dr. Bhavdeep Singh Ahuja

Dr. Bhavdeep Singh Ahuja

Tue. 6 February 2024

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Out of Rs 90,658.63 crore allocated for the health ministry, Rs. 87,656.90 crore has been allocated to the Department of Health and Family Welfare while Rs 3,001.73 crore to the Department of Health Research. The vaccination against cervical cancer, establishment of additional medical colleges, and advancements in mother-and-child care plans, among other initiatives, are viewed as significant positives for healthcare companies.

The budget allocation for the AYUSH ministry has been increased from Rs. 3,000 crore to Rs. 3,712.49 crore, recording a 23.74% increase.

The vote-on-account budget unveiled several health-related initiatives aimed at building an independent and developed India by 2047 viz. as summarized below:

  1. Healthcare cover under the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) will be extended to all Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) and Anganwadi workers and helpers. This extension aims to provide health coverage to those at the forefront of community health services.
  2. The allocation for Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PMJAY) has been increased from Rs 6,800 crore to Rs 7,500 crore. Presently, the Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme is the largest publicly funded health insurance scheme in the world that aims to provide health cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation to 12 crore families.
  3. The Government plans to set up more medical colleges by utilising existing hospital infrastructure and will form a committee to examine the matter.
  4. Additionally, the budget allocates resources for the establishment of nursing colleges co-located with recently established medical colleges.
  5. Selected ICMR Labs will now be available for collaboration with faculty from public and private medical colleges as well as the private sector to improve medical research.
  6. The Government will encourage vaccination for girls in the age group of 9-14 years for the prevention of cervical cancer. This step is aimed at safeguarding the health of young girls and preventing the onset of cervical cancer.
  7. Various maternal and child healthcare schemes will be brought under one comprehensive (umbrella) programme for synergy in implementation. This strategic move aims to enhance synergy and efficiency in the implementation of healthcare services for mothers and children.
  8. The newly designed U-WIN app, a new revolutionary platform designed to streamline and manage immunisations across the country and to have an efficient and organised approach to intensify the efforts of Mission Indradhanush will be rolled out expeditiously throughout the country. Presently, the U-WIN portal, the programme to digitise India's Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) is being run in a pilot mode in two districts of each state and Union territories. The U-WIN portal is linked with the Co-WIN portal which captures vaccination status and maintains an electronic registry of routine immunisations.
  9. Upgrading Anganwadi centres under ‘Saksham Anganwadi’ and ‘Poshan 2.0’ will be expedited for improved nutrition delivery, early childhood care, and development. This initiative focuses on delivering improved nutrition and better services for the holistic development of children.
  10. The Government will form a high-powered committee to look into the challenges arising from fast population growth and demographic changes.

Synopsis: The Interim Budget 2024 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman promises a boost for healthcare in India. The proposed measures include broadening health insurance coverage, reinforcing and boosting immunisation efforts, investing in maternal and child healthcare programmes, and prioritising rural healthcare. Encouraging cervical cancer vaccination, the U-Win platform, and Ayushman Bharat cover for ASHA workers have the potential to bring about a major change in strengthening the healthcare status of the population and enhancing medical service accessibility in vulnerable regions. The budget reflects a commitment to inclusivity, accessibility, and establishing a robust healthcare foundation for all citizens, signalling a significant move towards strengthening the healthcare infrastructure in the country.

The Numbers: If we talk of numbers, according to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, the percentage of GDP devoted to healthcare in FY14 was 0.26% and it remained relatively stable over the next three fiscal years, hovering around 0.25%. However, a noticeable uptick occurred in FY18, where the allocation rose to 0.31%. FY19 and FY20 maintained high levels with 0.29% and 0.32% of GDP respectively allocated to healthcare. FY21, however, saw a substantial spike, reaching 0.41% - the highest percentage in the decade. The subsequent fiscal years, FY22 and FY23, witnessed a partial decline, settling at 0.36% and 0.29% respectively. In FY 24, the revised estimate for healthcare is 0.27% of the GDP.

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