Union Budget 2023 Presents An Amrit Kaal Roadmap for Healthcare Sector

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The healthcare sector has the second-largest share in total CSR spending by India Inc.

The healthcare sector has the second-largest share in total CSR spending by India Inc.

In Budget 2023, healthcare was among the focal sectors with an emphasis on digital innovation

The Budget 2023-24, which is the first in Amrit Kaal, has been accepted well by industries across the country. The Budget document clearly rests on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of [email protected] with pillars of inclusivity and prosperity. Though the core intent of the Budget 2023 was to strengthen the government’s resolve to focus on two major pillars — ‘Make in India’ and ‘Ease of Doing Business’, healthcare was among the focal sectors with an emphasis on digital innovation.

To focus on enhancing medical and nursing education to meet the demand of the healthcare workforce of our country, the finance minister has proposed for establishment of 157 new nursing colleges. Such a step by the government would drive the nation towards a common goal of ‘Viksit Bharat’ with no shortage of healthcare workforce, not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of quality. Also, the initiative is a key step in the direction of universal health coverage.

It is a well-known fact that the quality of medical care which we enjoy today is only built upon years of research done by various medical professionals. To unleash the true potential and to encourage collaborative research and innovation for the sector, FM announced that selected ICMR labs to be made available for research by public and private medical college faculties and private sector R&D teams. Also, as healthcare and pharma sectors go hand in hand, a new programme to promote research and innovation in pharma will have a positive impact on the sector as well.

Keeping the importance of technology in mind, FM proposed that dedicated multidisciplinary courses for medical devices will be supported in the existing institutional structure to ensure the availability of skilled manpower for futuristic medical technologies, high-end manufacturing, and research. Setting up 100 Labs for 5G solutions was another big announcement that accelerate technology implementation in the sector.

The finance ministry in her speech highlighted that active participation is seen from public and private entities for integration with Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) – an open platform for digital registries of health providers and facilities. Additionally, the FM laid strong impetus on nutrition and sanitation to improve public health & ease pressure on curative health infrastructure. The government is also laced up to promote tourism on mission mode which may further enhance medical tourism and would ensure that healthcare services reach the last mile.

Another big announcement was about the decision to roll out a mission to eradicate sickle cell anemia by 2047. This mission will not only entail the creation of awareness in public but will also ensure universal screening of people in affected tribal areas. Also, with collaborative efforts of central ministries and state governments, FM aspires to provide appropriate counselling to people who need the same.

The healthcare sector has the second-largest share in total CSR spending by India Inc. However, with the announcement of the restriction of Input Tax Credit (ITC) eligibility on CSR spending, the disposable fund available for CSR may get reduced owing to the proportionate GST component adding up to the cost for the company. Similar to the previous years where the government has continued on its reforms agenda beyond the budget, the industry will continue to look out for further announcements during the course of the year. Shifting healthcare to a zero-rated GST regime will continue to be on the ask list and addressing this would bring down the cost of healthcare.

Further, the industry would be keenly awaiting clear directions on other key expectations of the industry, such as aspects around the GST return revision facility, and the creation of the GST Appellate Tribunal, amongst others. The Union Budget and the announcements over the last few years have laid a strong platform for the development of the healthcare sector and sustained focus throughout the year will eventually act as a catalyst in truly making our country ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ — that personifies good health and economic well-being.

(Bhanu Prakash Kalmath S J is partner and leader (healthcare & life sciences sector), and Karan Kakkar is partner (tax) at Grant Thornton Bharat LLP)

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