Health Budget 2019: India might increase spending on healthcare but that may not be enough

  • Indians are hoping that the Narendra Modi-led government will take a step forward to advance the ‘promised’ healthcare facilities in India.
  • India’s spending on healthcare is below some of the low-income countries which spend 1.4% of their GDP on health.
The government will unveil its annual budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year on July 5, 2019, and people are longing for improved healthcare.

It is likely to allocate ₹59,039 crore in the financial year 2019-20, an increase of 11% from the current financial year, according to India spend.

The government has already allocated ₹52,800 crore (budget estimates) in the health sector of the country, according to the medium term expenditure projection statement presented in the Parliament by the Ministry of Finance.

Indians are hoping that the Narendra Modi-led government will take a step forward to advance the ‘promised’ healthcare facilities in India. The interim budget did not prominently focus on the government’s flagship scheme, National Health Mission as it received only a marginal increase of ₹1,600 crore against ₹1,400 crore in 2018-19.

Defense over health

Over the years, the government has been spending five times more on defense than on healthcare in the country. India’s health allocation is ₹63,538 crore in 2019-20 against an investment of ₹282,733 crore in defense. The trend in budget allocation for both departments have been much similar in the budgets announced for the past two years, the wire reported.

Health emergency in India

The current government promised to address roadblocks in the healthcare sector including a shortage in infrastructure, access to medical facilities and inexpensive treatments. However, the current status of healthcare in India portrays a completely different picture.

Recently India’s poorest state, Bihar faced a medical crisis when more than 150 children — mostly under the age of 10 and malnourished — died of an outbreak of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur district.

"Children are dying because of a lack of medicines and treatment,"Rabri Devi, Bihar’s opposition figure.

According to Rural Health Statistics Bulletin 2017-18, the country is short of 32,900 sub-centres (catering to a population of 5,000), 6,430 primary health centres (PHCs, catering to 30,000 people) and 2,188 community health centres that are supposed to address the health needs of 80,000-120,000 people in rural areas, as on March 31, 2018.

Infact, only 7% of the sub-centres, 12% of primary health centres and 13% of the CHCs are functioning, Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS). The situation is much worse in tribal areas as it is short of 5,935 sub-centres, 1,187 PHCs and 275 CHCs, said the RHS 2017-18.

The population-doctor ratio in government hospitals is 25 times lower in India than the ratio recommended by the World Health Organisation.

₹3 : Daily expenses on healthcare

India spends less than two per cent of its GDP on healthcare, making it one of the lowest investors in the sector globally. The World Health Organisation places India’s healthcare spends behind Iraq and Venezuela.

The country suffers from a lack of infrastructure and is short of doctors, particularly in rural areas.

India spent 1.02% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015. This spending has remained the same for almost six years. India’s spending on healthcare is even below some of the low-income countries which spend 1.4% of their GDP on health, pointed out National Health Profile.

The negligence in public health spending forces even poorer patients to seek private healthcare. The country is the sixth biggest out-of-pocket (OOP) health spenders in 2014 amongst low middle-income group, reported India Spend.

The current pace of slow increase in the healthcare budget will make it difficult for India to achieve targets like reducing the maternal mortality rate to 100 in 2018-20 and infant mortality to 28 deaths per 1000 live births by 2019.

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