Though healthcare was named as one of the nine pillars for driving India’s transformative agenda, there are only few proposals in the Budget which could provide a growth pill to the ailing sector. The government aims to improve availability of affordable medicines by setting up 3,000 `Jan Aushadhi’ stores for dispensing generic medicines and will also allow duty-free import of dialysis equipment, which could lower treatment cost. Over two lakh renal patients are added every year in India, and the distribution of health facilities in the country is skewed.The proposed National Dialysis Programme to be rolled out through the PPP route, would make treatment more accessible, feels Gautam Khanna, CEO of Mumbaibased PD Hinduja Hospital.
The Budget also announced a healthcare insurance scheme to cover onethird of India’s population (below-poverty-line families) against a hospitalisation expenditure of Rs 1lakh, with a top-up of Rs 30,000 for senior citizens. Ranjit Shahani, Novartis India VC and MD, however, feels it’s too less. “A long-standing need has been to increase health care investments as a percentage of the GDP to 2.5% from the abysmal 0.8%.There has been no mention of how to reach this number each year.“
A move that has come as a slight dampener for research-driven companies is the reduction of benefit of deduction for research to 150% from April 2017 and 100% from April 2020, says Glenn Saldanha chairman & MD, Glenmark Pharma.
The government is also launching a new initiative to ensure that the BPL families are provided with a cooking gas connection, supported by a subsidy.
Sanitary pads may get cheaper
Prices of women’s hygiene products could come down as customs duty on super absorbent polymer, a raw material which is used for manufacturing sanitary pads, napkins and tampons, has been reduced from 7.5% to 5%. Any reduction in price would result in higher consumption.