1st February, 2018 will do down in India’s financial history as Modi government’s last major budget ahead of of the crucial 2019 polls. What made the budget more special was it being the first, after the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.
The budget began on a positive note with Finance Minister listing out the positives of the Indian economy like India turning into a $2.5 trillion economy, making it the seventh largest in the world.
One of the major ‘Big Bang’ schemes announced in the first part of the Budget included a major push for universal healthcare via a National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS).
Under this scheme, initially 10 crore poor and vulnerable families would be provided about Rs 5 lakh per year, to go towards medical costs. Expected to benefit about 50 crore people, which turns out to be about 40% of the Indian population, this program is being pegged as “world’s largest government funded health protection scheme”.
While announcing this scheme, FM decided to take things to the next level by indicating that the country might be moving towards Universal Heath Coverage:
— PIB India (@PIB_India) February 1, 2018
Dubbed as Ayushman Bharat, this movement towards Universal Healthcare is 17 times bigger than the current Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, and is expected to cover about 40% of the Indian population. This as per projections would prevent these 10 crore vulnerable families from falling into poverty due to costs towards healthcare.
Ayushman Bharat, a paperless, cashless and portable scheme, will be further strengthened via setting up of 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres:
Ayushman Bharat Program for addressing health care holistically. 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres will be set up to provide diagnostic services and free essential drugs. #NewIndiaBudget
— RSPrasad Office (@OfficeOfRSP) February 1, 2018
Besides these centres, a government medical college would be ensured for every three parliamentary constituencies, which will be achieved by upgrading 24 district level hospitals. A total of Rs 1200 crores has been allocated to the Ayushman Bharat programme for the year 2018-19.
As per the Director (Health) of Niti Aayog, this National Health Protection Scheme would be bolstered via a Public Private Partnership (PPP), and will stimulate private investment in healthcare. This project will also see a streamlined cooperation between small clinics and standardised hospitals, to help develop treatment standards.
In the health care sector, Jaitley also announced an amount of 600 crore for nutritional support of TB patients. And to reaffirm his government’s commitment to public benefit schemes, Jaitley increased the budget for health, education and social security to Rs 1.38 trillion for 2018-19 from Rs 1.22 trillion in current fiscal.