Union Budget 2021: Impact on the Healthcare sector

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up nearly every industry across sectors, influencing new consumer behaviours, limiting some industries while inspiring others’ growth. The health and wellness sector has witnessed a paradigm shift with consumers adapting to life without gyms, fitness studios, or easy accessibility to doctors and other health workers. 

The pandemic has also strained the Indian healthcare infrastructure at the policy level. The Government of India issued telemedicine guidelines, notifications about the doorstep sale of drugs, introduced schemes for domestic manufacturing of Key Starting Materials (KSM), Drug Intermediaries (Dis), and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs). 

Despite the numerous initiatives taken by the central government, a lot more needs to be done to ensure the healthcare sector’s sustainable growth. This is the focus of the Union Budget 2021-22 delivered by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. 

A much-needed boost

Hospitals and healthcare sector stocks are at the forefront after the Finance Minister announced the central government’s plan to expand the flagship health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantra Jan Aarogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY). Of the total allocation of Rs 69,000 crore in the healthcare sector, Rs 6,400 crore has been given to the PMJAY scheme. PMJAY was launched for improving access to hospitalisation services at the secondary and tertiary levels at all healthcare facilities for the bottom 40% of the population.

Besides the Rs 6,400 crore allocation, the PMJAY scheme will see further expansion by setting up more hospitals in the tier-II and tier-III cities under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. Additionally, the government has also commenced programs to set up 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres by 2022. These centres aim to provide CPHC services to people and sustain services in reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child, adolescent, and nutrition (RMNCHA+N).

The Finance Minister has also said that generic medicine retail outlets – Jan Aushadhi stores – would be expanded in every district across the country. In addition to a comprehensive medicine stock, the stores will also be equipped with more surgical equipment. At present, the Jan Aushadi stores sell about 154 pieces of surgical equipment. This number is projected to go up to 300. The scheme to enhance the stocks would lead to growth for SME pharma manufacturing units that are going to be in demand. With the district-wide expansion, it is a welcome move in enhancing the accessibility of medicines in more remote areas. 

Aside from these developments, the Finance Minister has also reiterated the central government’s commitment to eliminating Tuberculosis (TB) from India. The deadly disease kills an estimated 480,000 Indians each year. The Union Budget has set an ambitious target of 2025, five years ahead of the Global Sustainable Development Goals deadline to eliminate the disease from the country.

Looking ahead

Even as the government navigates these uncharted waters, balancing economic growth with fiscal concerns, a hike in infrastructure spending in the budget 2021 holds the potential of propelling the Indian economy to a high-growth trajectory. 

Pre-pandemic health and wellness were already emerging as a significant consumer spending opportunity. The push from the government with better awareness programs will pave the way for a more health-conscious economy. 

What will further enable the change is the potential power of the internet and numerous start-ups in the health space, such a s K&H Personalized Medicine, where we provide exemplary medical care by delivering the accurate diagnosis through genomic screening.  

With a focus on improving the overall lifestyle through genetics, K&H offers some excellent personalized packages for healthcare such as Jeeva- A comprehensive test where the treatment focuses on diet, nutrition and lifestyle; and Kalpa – India’s first Pharmacogenomics test that links medication to your genes.

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