The George Institute for Global Health welcomes the Healthcare push in Union Budget 2018

The George Institute for Global Health welcomes the healthcare push provided by the Union Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley in his budget proposals for the year 2018-19. Dr Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director, George Institute for Global Health, India, shares views on key welcome highlights from the health budget.

The growing recognition of the importance of screening, detection and management of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) found an echo in his statement and provides political commitment to the National Health Policy 2017. 

"The proposal to set up 1.5 lakh wellness centres is a step in the right direction", says Dr Jha.

"We hope that with the digital India push, the role of technology as an enabler and driver of health care systems strengthening is recognised and given the right emphasis while setting up these wellness centres. We need to look at making these wellness centres effective by looking at evidence in terms of what works – technology and task shifting being effective ways of making this happen”.

He said that the announcement of the flagship National Health Protection scheme is also a step in the right direction, 

"The proposal to cover 50 crore beneficiaries is indeed very ambitious and we hope that while operationalising the scheme, care is taken that poor people can access them as much in government hospitals as in private hospitals. There is a need to develop a mechanism that works on the principle of social entrepreneurship”.

Giving an example, Dr Jha shared that the Arogyashri scheme launched by the Andhra Pradesh Government some years ago did not cover some essential medical aid and support that the poor required. Access to medical aid was also easy in private hospitals than in government hospitals, an analysis done by the George Institute India has shown. This must be avoided, he said.

“When it comes to health care, we need a balance between the public and the private sector. While private sector has grown by leaps and bounds, public sector growth lags which creates inequities in access to care for the disenfranchised. Therefore, we need to strengthen the public sector which operates in a just and equitable manner”.  

Welcoming the increase in health outlay,  Dr Jha says that

"Hopefully the money will be spent most effectively and operationalisation of the schemes should not get lost in bureaucratic red-tapism. He also felt that the increase may not be commensurate with the actual allocation needed to bring essential primary health care to all citizens in both urban as well as rural areas."

Dr Jha says, "the vision of an Ayushman Bharat is indeed laudable, but we must also keep in mind that a healthy population is likely to contribute efficiently to the GDP and so see this as an investment in the future than just social welfare spending.”