Budget 2017 should focus on preventive, promotive healthcare: Mehta of PwC

Emphasising that expenditure on public health in the country was quite low, Rana Mehta, partner and leader (healthcare), PwC said the government needed to focus on preventive and promotive care.

Mehta also stressed on the need for a robust medical fraud detection engine as part of the insurance claims process.

He was responding to questions on a Business Standard live chat on what should be expected from the coming Budget for improving health care in the country. Excerpts:

How should government spending on healthcare be increased? India has among the lowest spends on public health. The focus of the government should be on preventive and promotive care. Secondary and tertiary care services could largely be procured from the private sector under the National Insurance Scheme.

What steps should be taken to reach quality healthcare facilities to the bottom of the pyramid? Accessibility to healthcare in India is predominantly driven by affordability. The National Health Protection Scheme envisaged by the Government will provide insurance to the majority of the people below the poverty line. This will help them access quality healthcare facility.

Can we expect a strengthening of the Jan Aushadhi stores and an increase in the number of such stores for providing affordable medicines?

One fifth of the cost of treatment is made up of medicines. Yes, providing medicines free/ at subsidised rates is going to be an important component of any health assurance program. However, in line with the Digital India initiative, putting these stores online will greatly enhance accessibility.

Can we expect a cap on medical insurance premiums? I am concerned about this so-called nexus between hospitals and insurance firms driving up the cost of healthcare for ordinary Indians.

Medical insurance premiums are market driven and based on actuarial analysis of the risk pool. As the number of insured rises, this premium tends to fall India Budget News or stabilise. There is a need for a robust medical fraud detection engine as part of the claims process.

According to reports, India’s healthcare sector is likely to expand 15% CAGR to reach $158 billion by 2017. As of now, we have 3,598 hospitals and 25,723 dispensaries across the country that offer AYUSH treatment. Can we expect more for AYUSH-branded hospitals in FY18 to ensure the availability of alternative medicine and treatment to people of India?

CAM or Complimentary Alternative Medicine has seen significant growth in the developed economies. Hospitals in India are also exploring the possibility of offering such services in their current set up.

Should we not go beyond market-driven opportunities to tackle emerging threats, including chronic diseases, by using a multi-pronged preventative strategy? If so, how should that be done?

Non-communicable diseases pose the greatest threat not only to our healthcare system but could also be a roadblock to the growth of our economy. Digital Healthcare promises cost effective 24/7 solutions to tackle this. However, this will require close coordination between the private and public sector.

Do we need more schemes in public healthcare or will just allocating more money to the ongoing schemes be good enough? I think we have a surfeit of schemes. Often funds allocated for schemes go unutilised. We need to focus on outcomes going ahead.

Budget 2017 should focus on preventive, promotive healthcare: Mehta of PwC

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