Finance minister Arun Jaitley announced on Monday 3,000 more pharmacies to sell generic medicines and an insurance scheme with hospitalisation cover up to Rs 1 lakh per family, aimed at making healthcare affordable to the poor and marginalised.
The health protection scheme, expected to protect one-third of India’s population against financial stress during illness and hospitalisation, will offer an additional Rs 30,000 top-up to people above 60 years.
The pharmacies will be set up under the government’s Jan Aushadhi Yojana, launched in 2008 to provide quality medicines at affordable prices for all, especially the poor.
Public-private partnership (PPP) in healthcare also got a boost with the finance minister proposing using the model to launch a national dialysis service under the National Health Mission to provide services in all district hospitals to bring down cost and increase accessibility for those with end-stage kidney failure.
Jaitley also announced basic custom and excise exemptions on import of dialysis equipment.
“About 2.2 lakh new patients of end-stage renal disease get added in India every year resulting in additional demand for 3.4 crore dialysis sessions. With approximately 4,950 dialysis centres in India, largely in the private sector and concentrated in the major towns, the demand is only half met,” Jaitley said.
He added that people often have to travel long distances for the dialysis sessions each costing about Rs 2,000, which can lead to an annual expenditure of more than Rs 3 lakh.
Excise duty on all tobacco products, other than bidis, was raised by 10%-15%, in another health-related decision.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, one million people in India die of tobacco-related diseases each year.