I was shocked to see only a passing mention of the healthcare sector in the healthcare budget 2019. For years healthcare as a sector has been neglected and though there are efforts by the government, it is clearly not enough to revive the stagnating rural health system in India.

The finance minister made a passing reference to the sector, stating that according to the vision presented in the interim budget, “a healthy society would remain an area of attention for the government, which she attributed to factors like Ayushman Bharat and well-nourished children and women.” This was during her Union Budget 2019 presentation yesterday in the Parliament while addressing the healthcare budget 2019.

The healthcare budget 2019 spend sees a 15% rise in terms of allocation to the finances to the ministry of health and family welfare. In 2019-2020 the ministry would have access to INR 62659 crores to spend on the health and welfare of the nation.

Also, the budget to the National Rural Health Mission has increased by 7 % to INR 27,039 Crores in the healthcare budget 2019. Also, there has been a marginal increase to the National Urban Health Mission to INR 950 Crores.

Where does all this leave us? Well not very well I am afraid.

The Primary Health Care (PHC) system is crying out for reform with only 20% fulfilling the minimum criteria for Indian Public Health Standards. Almost 5 % of the PHCs are without doctors and almost 60% have only 1 doctor servicing the population. We had discussed the importance of rural health in the overall healthcare reforms in India in an article in 2017.

In analyzing the election manifestos of political parties, from 2014 elections, we realised that healthcare is not an election issue. The report would be available in a months time, but on initial analysis, health occupies about 2-6 % of the manifesto.

Keep tuned to read more on this in our follow up stories.

But today the question to you is, what would an ideal healthcare budget look like if we had to provide access to quality healthcare to a billion plus people? We would like to hear your thoughts on the same.

References

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/health/union-budget-2019-20-hardly-any-mention-of-health-sector-in-budget-speech-65467

Dr Vikram Venkateswaran

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