NEW DELHI :
Healthcare industry players and public health experts expect the 2020-21 Union Budget to take steps to boost local production of devices and make healthcare more affordable. Private hospitals expect the government to address the issue of costly medical equipment in the Budget to be presented on Saturday.
“At present, India imports nearly 80% percent of all medical devices and domestic manufacturing took more of a hit post GST as the imports became cheaper by 11%. As the imports went up by 24% in the previous fiscal, the government needs to take urgent measures to boost local manufacturing if it wants India to become a manufacturing hub," said Nikhilesh Tiwari, Founder and CEO of ColMed, a Mumbai based Medical Supplies Company.
“For starters, tariff protection will boost the domestic industry and encourage competition, which will drive price stability. Secondly, we should increase the regulations to cover most medical devices and ensure responsible manufacturing and protect the interests of patients," he said.
Tiwari argued that preferential pricing will promote quality in public procurement, and ensure that the patients who access the public healthcare system get the quality of treatment that they deserve. In addition, the Government should give export promotion scheme for local manufacturer, said.
Currently, India has one of the lowest spending on healthcare if compared with global data. The current spending of India remains 1.6% of the GDP while the government’s own National Health Policy 2017 envisages increasing the health budget to 2.5%.
“We hope to see some action around this in Budget 2020. Government needs to declare some sops to raise this percentage. We also hope that the Budget will focus on home healthcare services. Other critical aspects to be addressed include good governance, a robust system to procure and supply medicines, devices as well as a connected health information system," said Alok Roy, Chairman of Medica Group of Hospitals.
In recent past, there is an overall slowdown in expansion plans of private healthcare players. The private sector has said that the government has to increase its intent to collaborate with private sector, so that they understand the financial modus operandi of the private players better.
“Budget must pay attention to the financial viability of private healthcare by relooking at the pricing controls, reviewing the existing rates of the Government healthcare schemes, releasing the money stuck with CGHS, ECHS etc. which hugely affects the already hit liquidity balances of the existing players. Unless these are addressed in concrete terms, it will be difficult for new entrants to seamlessly operate in the current business scenario," said Roy.
The private healthcare sector has also raised the cost of medical equipment as a pain point, which they claim, requires support in the Budget. “This will make the medical devises and equipment, a part of Government’s ambitious programme of Made in India, which will accelerate growth in this sector. Critical healthcare equipment such as ventilators, wheelchairs, crutches, and medical equipment spare parts should be exempted from GST in Budget 2020. This will help make quality healthcare more accessible," said Roy.
“Innovative, tech-based, and affordable healthcare solutions are the need of the hour and our expectations from Budget also revolve around the same. The market for healthcare start-ups and digital healthcare devices is robust. Government must support to promote domestic innovations and provide incentive to domestic device manufacturers. This will enable us to reduce our dependency on foreign imports. This will not only boost the Indian start up cluster but also make healthcare market more economic," he said.