Budget 2018: Health insurance should be made mandatory, says industry body

New Delhi: The government should make health insurance mandatory for all citizens and give healthcare priority sector status, the Healthcare Federation of India ‘NATHEALTH’ said on Wednesday.

Also, there is a need to facilitate access to funding by creating a specific fund for healthcare infrastructure and innovation, it said.

Currently, only around 4 percent of the population in the country has health insurance coverage. Out of pocket healthcare spending constitutes 86 percent of total healthcare spend in India, NATHEALTH said in a statement.

The major reason for the low penetration of health insurance is that it is currently optional, NATHEALTH President Arvind Lal said.

In its pre-budget recommendations, the sectoral body urged the government to explore making health insurance coverage mandatory for all citizens in a phased manner, initially covering the organised sector.

“Apart from enabling universal access to healthcare, this move would also meet the urgent need for augmenting healthcare capacity creation in the country,” Lal added.

NATHEALTH also asked the government to give priority sector status to healthcare as this will help in the process of enabling development of innovative long term financing structures for healthcare providers.

This would also create an attractive environment for domestic production of medical equipment, devices and consumables while also catalysing research and development, it added.

“The Government can think of providing the seed capital for funds such as Health Infrastructure Fund and Medical Innovation Fund. Access to funding by creating a specific fund for healthcare infrastructure and innovation would facilitate access to capital for the sector,” NATHEALTH Secretary General Anjan Bose said.

The industry body also asked the government that in order to make India a preferred healthcare tourism destination, medical tourism should be made fully exempt from income tax for healthcare providers.