Healthcare sector upbeat as Budget gives a booster dose

The healthcare industry has welcomed Budget proposals to increase tax exemption limits for health insurance cover and set up more AIIMS across India, saying such moves enable people's access to better facilities.

PTI| Last Updated: Feb 28, 2015, 18:01 PM IST

New Delhi: The healthcare industry has welcomed Budget proposals to increase tax exemption limits for health insurance cover and set up more AIIMS across India, saying such moves enable people's access to better facilities.

"Increasing the tax exemption on health insurance cover will increase access to healthcare and the addition of more AIIMS will add to infrastructure in the sector.

"Increase in visas on arrival facility to 150 countries will give a boost to medical tourism in the country," Apollo Hospitals Managing Director Suneeta Reddy told PTI.

Expressing similar views, industry body NATHEALTH Secretary General Anjan Bose said: "NATHEALTH welcomes government's positive Budget announcements like more AIIMS and increase in tax exemption limits for health insurance premium."

With a view to encourage savings and promote healthcare among individual tax payers, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said there would be "increase in the limit of deduction in respect of health insurance premium from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000."

For senior citizens, the limit will be increased to Rs 30,000 from the existing Rs 20,000, while for very senior citizens of the age of 80 years or more, who are not covered by health insurance, deduction of Rs 30,000 towards expenditure incurred on their treatment will be allowed, he added.

Hailing the announcements, Manipal Health Enterprise CEO & MD Ajay Bakshi said: "We welcome the government's move of increasing health insurance cover, this will enable people to seek out for quality healthcare which is a huge concern in our country."

The plan to open AIIMS in five new states will begin to address the huge shortage of doctors and skilled staff, he said.

Bakshi, however, said: "The allocation of Rs 33,150 crore towards the healthcare sector comes as a disappointment as the government has not kept up with its promise of increasing expenditure on public health."

Jaitley said the government will launch All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in J&K, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Assam in fiscal year 2015-16.

Deloitte in India Senior Director Charu Sehgal said that while the increase in deduction for health insurance premium and overall thrust on social security is welcome, "there was an absence of specific focus on the healthcare sector, which was disappointing."

Specifically, the boost to medical manufacturing and education, expected under the "Make in India" and "skill development" focus, was missing.

"The Budget has made some enabling provisions for people to spend more on health insurance and that's one of the welcome steps for the healthcare sector," Radiant Life Care CMD Abhay Soi said.