The Union Budget 2018, presented in the Lok Sabha on Thursday by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, seems a pro-poor budget with many reforms and initiatives being directed towards their welfare. The focus has been on universal health coverage and affordable healthcare, two aspects which must be pertinently addressed ~ and seem to have been addressed at length this year.

The three facets of the healthcare budget this year have been enhancing the quality of medical education, covering all poor households under the Jeevan Bima Yojana, and promotion of preventive healthcare.
Contributions have been invited from private sector organisations to realize the concept of health and wellness centres.

Dr K K Aggarwal, president Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and immediate past national president Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “This budget is directed more towards the poorer sections of the society. It remains to be seen what benefit the Aam Janata will accrue.

“The Flagship ‘National health protection scheme’ launched to cover 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (meaning 50 crore beneficiaries) by providing Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation is a good move.

“This will be the world’s largest government funded national health programme. The National health policy 2017 envisioned ‘health and wellness centres’ as the foundation of India’s health. This budget then aims to set up 1.5 lakh wellness centres with the hope of bringing health care closer to the homes of the people.

“The fact that comprehensive health care including NCDs and maternal and health services fall under this gambit is encouraging. These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic tests, a need of the hour.”

Dr Aggarwal, who is also the vice president of CMAAO, said, “The push for health coverage and insurance has been big.

“It is hoped that many more people will fall under the insured category this year onwards. At least one medical college for every 3 parliamentary constituencies and at least one government medical college in each state of the country is a positive step towards addressing the shortage of doctors in the country.”

According to Dr Anand Bansal, medical director at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute: “With the allocation of Rs.1,200 crore for the health wellness centres programme, 1.5 lakh health and wellness centers will be set up. I highly appreciate the National health protection scheme which will provide Rs 5 lakh per family annually for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.This is the world’s largest health programme and will surely reduce the healthcare burden.”