Health allocation went up 14 per cent to Rs 22,300 crore this year, with Rs 13,910 crore going to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Rs 2,678 crore to medical education, and Rs 982 crore to strengthening hospitals.
Much more is needed, said public health experts.
“I expected higher allocations to health, given the need to strengthen and scale up current programmes and initiate several new programmes, including the urban health mission,” said Dr K. Srinath Reddy, chairman, Public Health Foundation of India, and chair of the prime minister’s health panel.
Though it was once again denied infrastructure status, the healthcare industry welcomed the simplifying of import duty on medical equipment to a uniform 5 per cent.
“Benefits of lowered import duty, which varied from 9 per cent to 33 per cent, on medical equipment and instruments will lower overall cost of treatment,” said Dr Ramakant Panda, managing director, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai.
Public health experts welcomed the tax increases on tobacco, with excise duty on cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, scented tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco going up.
“It is unfortunate that bidis, which are the largest consumed form of tobacco, continues as the blind spot of the government and remains untaxed,” said Dr Reddy.
“I don’t see any bold initiatives in this budget, except for some reduction in duties on medical equipment. A robust economy and more money in the hand, however, will indirectly have a beneficial impact on the healthcare sector,” said Shivinder Mohan Singh, managing director, Fortis Healthcare.