Union government’s recently announced National Health Protection Scheme could possibly be the first major step towards universal health coverage. This in turn with lead to a significant number of takers who can access critical healthcare services, said Mustafa Daginawalla, CFO, Saifee Hospital.
The scheme can be used to pay for hospitalisation and treatment in secondary and tertiary care facilities. The provision of digital payments has also been discussed as a viable avenue for payment. An annual health insurance cover of Rs.5 lakh will be allotted to a family, and the scheme is purported to take into account over 10 crore vulnerable families, with approximately 50 crore beneficiaries. This announcement was arguably the biggest in this year’s budget, he added.
Healthcare industry has been witnessing a number of pertinent changes which are expected to affect the sector at a grassroots level. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's move to increase deduction limit on health insurance premium for senior citizens from Rs.30,000 to Rs.50,000, and National Health Protection Scheme which if executed with a fair degree of efficiency, could not only be a big boon for the medical insurance industry but the healthcare sector too, said Daginawalla.
Owing to the increase in the deduction limit under Section 80D of the Income-Tax Act, senior citizens will be able to avail benefits for the payment of health insurance premiums, which were at a much higher rate earlier. This will help reduce tax liabilities, essentially placing a higher amount of taxable income in the hands of the people. The increased tax exemption will also encourage senior citizens to obtain higher medical insurance coverage to handle the growing expenditure towards medical services, he said.
Under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bhima Yojna, a sum of Rs.2,000 crore has been allocated by the government up to 2019 which is a considerable increase from Rs.470 crore in FY 18, and this is expected to be rolled out soon. As a result, the healthcare and medical insurance sectors will certainly experience a major rise in expenditure, leading to a significant number of takers who can access critical healthcare services.
However, a regulatory mechanism also needs to be put in place to ensure that insurance companies pay patient bills without unnecessary details, misusing the benefits of these acts. Thus, at the moment, investment in healthcare is going to multiply manifold, leading to an improvement in the hospitals setup of the country, provided the government plans roll out smoothly, unhindered by an inadequate allocation of funds and other unforeseen delays. The potential is there, now, we patiently await delivery, said Daginawalla.