As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is all set to present the Union Budget 2018 on February 1, the industry experts and consumers have pinned high hopes for an increase in budget allocation and expenditure for the health sector.
In this year's budget, the top most expectation continues to be income tax benefit. In the current fiscal, the taxpayers are expecting more tax advantage under section 80D. Many in the industry are also expecting a reduction in the cost of term insurance by reducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST), the country's biggest tax reform. As experts feel that since the launch of the GST, the product costs have gone up drastically.
While senior citizens are of the view that the Modi government should try to make health at cheaper cost at private hospitals, the Healthcare Federation of India 'NATHEALTH' opines that the government should make health insurance mandatory for all people and like foreign countries even India should give healthcare priority sector status.
“Hope that the government starts regulating the health insurance premiums for senior citizens. Of late we have seen extraordinary rise of premiums in higher age categories and believe that if trend was to continue, soon it will become exorbitantly expensive to extend coverage and to sustain it”, says Deepak Mendiratta, Managing Director at HII Insurance Broking Services Private Limited.
“Given an increase in longevity and an increase in incident rate of hospitilisation of elderly, they need protection more than anyone else. The following is what we request the government to consider:
1. Subsidising health insurance cover for seniors in certain categories.
2. Making it mandatory for insurers to offer health insurance compulsorily till age 75 rather than the current 65 years.
3. Regulate to allow ease in medical underwriting of seniors. Whose policy proposals are often declined by insurers based on morbidities which they typically have as common in this age group.
4. Much like social sector obligation/rural obligation, health insurance portfolio should as well be made compulsory. So to say, a minimum percentage of portfolio should comprise of seniors,” says Mendiratta who also runs PlanCover.com.
Meanwhile, recent cases like that of a newborn being declared dead by Delhi's Max hospital and the Fortis Hospital at Gurugram charging as high as 1700 per cent margin on consumables and medicines used for the treatment of seven-year-old dengue patient who subsequently died have already raised question marks on the condition of healthcare in India.
“As these days, lifestyle ailments are on the rise and so are the hospital costs, we are keeping our fingers crossed and expect Modi government to come up with better healthcare plans”, says 72-year-old retired banker, Sudarshan Singh.
Even PM Narendra Modi has time and again talked about healthcare in India. In August last year, PM Modi had said that his government was leaving no stone unturned in providing quality healthcare that is accessible and affordable. "On #WorldHealthDay, I pray that you are blessed with wonderful health, which gives you the opportunity to pursue your dreams & excel," the prime minister had tweeted. "When it comes to healthcare, our government is leaving no stone unturned to provide quality healthcare that is accessible & affordable," he added.
If reports are to be believed, in the upcoming budget, the Modi government may allocate Rs 5,000 crore under 'NATHEALTH'. The scheme will be divided into three types –- Kalyan Scheme, Saubhagya Scheme and Sarvodaya scheme -- that will cover people below poverty line, within the range of Rs 2 lakh annual income, and above Rs 2 lakh income respectively.
As the budget 2018 inches close, people have started building expectations on slew of likely announcements and reforms, but what actually is in store will be clear only when the finance minister opens his briefcase in barely a week from now.
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