India To Extend Healthcare to 100 Million Families

In the annual budget for 2019, India’s minister for finance, Arun Jaitley, announced a National Health Protection Scheme that will provides health insurance coverage for 100 million of India’s most vulnerable families up to 500,000 rupees, or about $7,825 each year, an amount in India that would cover the equivalent of five heart surgeries. With approximately 500 million beneficiaries, “this will be the world’s largest government-funded healthcare program,” Jaitley told parliament in his speech. “The government is progressing towards a goal of universal health coverage,” he added.

Jaitley also announced the creation of Health and Wellness Centers, which will “bring healthcare closer to home.” 150,000 such centers will provide comprehensive health care for non-communicable diseases, maternal and child health services, essential drugs, and diagnostic services. $314 million has been allocated for this in the current budget.

Additional funding may be channeled via Corporate Social Responsibility programs, and philanthropic institutions will be encouraged to “adopt” some of these Health & Wellness Centers.

Picture of India's finance minister Arun Jaitley

Arun Jaitley, minister for finance, India

“This is huge. It’s the biggest step the government has taken in 20 years in health care,” said Dr. Ajay Bakshi, the former chief executive of Manipal Hospitals, a chain of 16 private hospitals based in Bangalore.

India spends a little over one percent of its GDP on public healthcare — one of the lowest proportions in the world — a sum the government is aiming to increase to 2.5 percent by 2025. Currently the government provides $470 toward healthcare for poor families, but that sum is insufficient to cover most medical procedures. Jaitley stated that the government was “seriously concerned” that millions of Indians had to borrow or sell assets to receive adequate treatment in hospital.

The government will levy a surtax that will raise about $1.7 billion a year specifically for health care programs, as well as introduce a new tax on capital gains. Jaitley added that 24 new state-run medical colleges will be set up, and rural hospitals will be upgraded.

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Posted on by Gunjan Bagla
Gunjan Bagla
California-based management consultant Gunjan Bagla runs Amritt, a consulting firm helping American companies to succeed in India. Amritt is the trusted advisor for India market research, India business development, India market entry, Global Engineering, Global Technology Scouting, India R&D and Open Innovation. Gunjan is author of "Business in 21st Century India: How to Profit Today from Tomorrow’s Most Exciting Market" (Hachette Book Group, 2008), Amazon's top rated title on the subject. He has appeared as the India Expert on BBC Television, Bloomberg TV, Fox Cable Business and has been quoted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter and Business Week for his expertise on India.

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