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Budget 2018: Govt must enable shift from curative to preventive health care

The diagnostics segment expects incentives from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Union Budget 2018-19

Arindam Haldar 

Healthcare budget 2018

While Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is all set to present the NDA government’s last full before going for the 2019 general elections, the Health care industry in the country has high expectations from Union 2018-19. Though Health care is exempted from goods and services tax (GST), there are other sectoral issues that need to be addressed.

From a Diagnostics standpoint, one has firmly supported the need for a standardised, regulated Diagnostics sector and appreciated the Government’s efforts in this direction. Estimates indicate about 1 per cent of all Diagnostic laboratories are accredited.

Consequently, the Narendra Modi Government needs to earmark annual allocations for establishing an autonomous body regulating the quality of services. There is an immediate need to build better primary health care centres that would help in reducing the burden on secondary and tertiary health clinics. These primary health care centres should drive awareness programmes to tackle early disease management and reduce the cost burden as well. The nation needs to shift its focus from curative to preventive health care. Accordingly, since diagnostics pave the way and determine the choice of / initiate treatment, the diagnostics industry could be the focal point for driving health care treatment options in the country.

In fact, in the National Health Policy 2017, the Government has insisted on the need to strategically invest in preventive health care measures. If the Government invests enough in the Diagnostics segment, the industry can propagate early diagnosis of diseases which in turn has the potential to improve productivity loss and / or delay to onset / eliminate the necessity for tertiary treatment.

Private health care manages much of the patient burden spilling from the public health care system. This has boosted many health insurance schemes. The fact, however, is that adequate and comprehensive coverage for a range of services and diseases remains elusive. Curative and invasive interventions, such as surgeries and in-patient care, are covered by public health insurance policies. But despite non-communicable diseases being responsible for more than 50 per cent of all deaths in India, health insurance schemes seem unprepared to meet this disease burden.

The absence of coverage for outpatient care and pre-existing diseases is now proving to be an impediment to a comprehensive and affordable health insurance cover. One hopes the Honourable Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, would find some ways to address the lacuna.

The author is CEO of SRL Diagnostics

First Published: Wed, January 31 2018. 18:55 IST