NATHEALTH asks govt to hike public health expenditure to above 2.5% of GDP

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New Delhi: Healthcare industry body NATHEALTH on Tuesday urged the government to raise public health expenditure to above 2.5 per cent of GDP and rationalise GST for healthcare with a uniform 5 per cent rate slab.

In its pre-budget recommendations, NATHEALTH also called for the implementation of "transformative measures that focus on strengthening healthcare infrastructure and making strategic investments to address both demand and supply-side challenges".

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is expected to unveil the budget proposals for FY24-25 on July 23 in the Lok Sabha.

NATHEALTH President, and Max Healthcare Institute Chairman & Managing Director Abhay Soi said India has made significant strides toward becoming a global healthcare powerhouse and this has substantially contributed to GDP and job creation.

As the nation progresses toward achieving a USD 5 trillion economy, providing quality healthcare for the entire population is a prerequisite.

Addressing healthcare challenges will require an estimated 2 billion square feet of advanced healthcare infrastructure, he added.

"To meet these needs, increasing GDP spending on healthcare to 2.5 per cent is crucial for enhancing social insurance, expanding facilities in tier 2 and 3 cities, and advancing digital health services," Soi said.

Among its recommendations, NATHEALTH advocated "rationalising GST with a uniform 5 per cent rate slab for healthcare and full input tax credit eligibility; addressing the issue of unused MAT credits, and reviewing health cess policies for MedTech to ensure affordability".

Additionally, it recommended "declaring healthcare a 'national priority' status to facilitate better financing and offering tax incentives to encourage private sector investment in healthcare infrastructure, manufacturing, digital health, exports and education across India at par with SEZ policies available across other sunshine sectors".

Further, it also called for increasing acceptability of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) and the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) among frontline quality providers in the private sector and unlocking private capital to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

The healthcare industry body also suggested easing compliance under ease of doing business using digital tools, and promoting the medtech and supply value chain ecosystem for innovation and localisation.

With India becoming a preferred choice globally, policies to promote India as a preferred destination full stack of medical products, services and solutions are the need of the hour, it said.

"The upcoming budget must focus on healthcare infrastructure, innovation, skill development for medical professionals, and strengthening public-private partnerships to ensure improved access and quality across the nation. Prioritising research and development will drive medical innovation and address emerging health challenges," Soi said.