The interim finance minister Piyush Goyal, in his Budget speech, acknowledged the work done under Ayushman Bharat. Speaking to Business Today, Indu Bhushan, CEO Ayushman Bharat, rejoiced that it has become a central piece in the vision for 2030 to achieve the universal healthcare. "All of this has pleased us a lot," he said.
On the reports that Ayushman Bharat, despite being such an important component in the health programmes of the current government, has not received adequate funding support, he says, "I have always maintained that budget will never be a problem for this scheme as long as we implement it well."
Bushan further noted that the Budget 2019 is pro-poor and has taken up some overdue initiatives such as social security for those in the unorganised sector and for the benefit of farmers with small land holdings. "These are all welcome moves."
Goyal, who presented the budget in the absence of finance minister Arun Jailey - who is undergoing medical treatment - also talked of the benefits that people would gain from the measures taken by the government to bring down the prices of medicines and making them available through Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendra. The minister said, "Lakhs of poor and middle class people are benefiting from reduction in the prices of essential medicines, cardiac stents and knee implants, and availability of medicines at affordable prices through Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras." He also said, "There are 21 AIIMS operating or being established in the country presently. Fourteen of these 21 AIIMS have been announced since 2014. I am happy to announce setting up of new and 22nd AIIMS in Haryana."
However, the healthcare sector hoped for some new measures given that the whole of 2018 was spent talking about various policy measures. Many of them, such as the bid to launch National Medical Commission and other move to bring in regulation and standardisation of education and services of allied and healthcare professionals, were linked to the passage of bill in the parliament, and therefore were some distance away.
Reacting to the budget, B S Ajaikumar, founder chairman and CEO of HealthCare Global Enterprises, a leading chain of cancer care facilities says, "While it is good that they were able to find funds for the defence sector, there was nothing pathbreaking for the healthcare. In fact, the gap between the rich and the poor only seems to be getting wider.'' In fact, not just for healthcare, he feels, there should have been more resources for dealing with rising unemployment, quality of education and rural poor. All the three -- health, education and unemployment -- are linked, but instead of creating new opportunities that generate employment, the focus seems to have been on doling out freebies such as those for farmers and on LPG connections.
Sangita Reddy, joint managing director, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise, says, "Overall it is a good budget with every segment getting touched, though it does seem election-guided." She feels while the schemes are ambitious, the methodology to find the money for these needs should be analysed further and the fiscal deficit needs to be watched carefully. She is particularly happy that the dialogue has shifted with the mention of Ayushman Bharat as coverage and holistic preventive healthcare plan because orientation towards preventive healthcare is a positive direction.
"By 2030, we will work towards a distress free healthcare and a functional and comprehensive wellness system for all," says Goyal.