Although no major reforms were announced, plans to amend Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, formulate new norms for medical devices and taking steps for strengthening medical education will reduce healthcare cost for the masses, industry players today said.
Reacting to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's proposals in the Budget 2017-18, Apollo Hospitals Group Chairman Prathap C Reddy said: "While we were hopeful that healthcare would be accorded a national priority sector status, the structural reform in medical education, in particular the increase in number of post graduate medical seats and DNB courses is praiseworthy as it was long-awaited."
I do hope that the health policies will address the large unmet need for quality healthcare infrastructure and in particular the need to wage a war on non-communicable diseases which the health sector has been focusing upon. In addition, the Aadhaar linked health cards for senior citizens is a very welcome step," he added.
A healthy India is pivotal for the country to retain its position as one of the fastest growing economies. Hence, "we are also pleased that the critical determinants of health, i.e. sanitation and clean drinking water have gained greater importance as they are critical to ensure preventable deaths," Reddy said.
Furthermore, a target for the elimination of Tuberculosis has been set for 2025 apart from other diseases such as Filiaria, Leprosy, Measles and Kala Azar are all being targeted, which is a key need of the day in addition to addressing the onslaught of NCDs, he added.
"From a healthcare perspective, the announcement of the goal of eradicating TB from India by 2025 is welcome. I am happy that a new policy on medical education might be on the anvil and the FM wants to encourage private sector participation in medical education," Max Healthcare MD and CEO Rajit Mehta said.
However, healthcare outlay in the Budget hasn't been touched and it remains largely under-funded. There is no announcement regarding granting healthcare industry the status of infrastructure industry, a long-standing demand of the sector, he added.
"The new rules to be formulated for medical devices will help in reducing costs of medical devices. With import of such devices, our diagnostic chains with be at par with international diagnostic chains.
Also, the 1.5 lakh health wellness centres will help the citizens to be more aware and facilitate them with better health benefits," Metropolis Healthcare MD & Promoter Ameera Shah said.
The government today decided to continue its efforts to reduce the cost of healthcare with plans to amend the Drugs and Cosmetics rules and devising new rules for the medical devices.
"FM's Budget clearly focuses on improving healthcare access for the less privileged and on 'preventive & wellness' both of which are very encouraging. Target of transforming 1.5 lakh health sub-centres into health wellness centres is the need of the hour for the Indian citizens," NATHEALTH Secretary General Anjan Bose said.
"No major healthcare reform has been announced in the budget and we await the fine print on announced initiatives.
The Budget does, however, sent out some signals in the right direction," Deloitte India Partner Charu Sehgal said.
Given the huge shortage of doctors in the country, long term focus towards restructuring medical education and short term measures to add new seats and training courses in public and private sector are welcome, she added.
"The FM's acknowledgement that the Medical Device rules will be globally harmonised and that this would facilitate investments in this sector is a reflection of the growing understanding of the international interconnectedness of this sector and the importance of global technology & investment infusion," Medical Technology Association of India (MTaI) DG Pavan Choudary said.
The other medical device sector body AdvaMed also welcomed the government's plan to internationally harmonise the new medical device rules and attract investment into the medical device sector.
However, Chairman of AdvaMed India Working Group and Executive Committee and BD India Managing Director Varun Khanna said: "The association is disappointed as the Budget missed out on addressing higher import duties deterring introduction of innovative and high-quality devices for better patient care in India."