Union Budget 2019: A review of major health highlights

While ‘health’ dominated the union budget speech last year, with Modi government’s launch of ‘Ayushman Bharat’ scheme, a major budgetary allocation is made this year for the scheme

Health-Tech

From an allocation of Rs 2,000 crore last year, for the entire 12 months, the government has put aside a substantial amount of Rs 6,400 crore for the next financial year, for ‘Ayushman Bharat’ scheme.

Defence accounts for 11% of India’s overall expenditures and health accounts for only 2%, in this year’s budget. India’s defence allocation this year (2019-2020) is Rs 2, 82, 733 crore and health allocation is a mere Rs 63,538. The defence budget is 4.8 times the health budget.

The government has promised that nearly 1.5 lakh sub-centres and primary health centres would be transformed as Health and Wellness Centres by 2022 to provide comprehensive and quality primary care close to the community while ensuring the principles of equity, affordability and universality.

Till date, 4,503 such centres have been operationalised in various states.

Experts pointed out:

  • Biggest winner is Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) under Ayushman Bharat- 6400 Cr allocated this year. Last year it was 2,400 Cr.
  • However, Health and Wellness Centre component of Ayushman Bharat received marginal 400 Cr increase compared to last year. Only 1,600 Cr are allocated for HWCs which is insignificant considering 1.5 lakh number of HWCs.
  • It is very low amount for significant upgradation envisioned under Health and Wellness Centre component of Ayushman Bharat. It shows that the announcement of upgradation of sub-centres as Health and Wellness Centres was more of political posturing.
  • Budget for National health Mission is again back to the level of year 2017-18. In 2018-19, budget for NHM was reduced by approx. 900 Cr compared to year 2017-18.
  • This is restored now. Rs 31,745 Cr are allocated for NHM. Budget for National Rural Health Mission is marginally increased by 546 Cr while budget for National Urban Health Mission is increased by barely 75 Cr.
  • Budget for Reproductive and child Health Flexi pool (6758 Cr) is slashed further by 512 Cr compared to year 2018-19 (Rs7270 Cr).

It is shocking to note that in year 2018-19, this budget was slashed by 3800 Cr compared to year 2017-18 when it was 11,000 Cr.

Abhijit More, conveyor of Jan Aarogya Abhiyaan, said, “Overall budget of Health and Family Welfare Ministry is increased from 54302 Cr to 61,398 Cr – 12.9 % increase. But the major chunk is being allocated to ‘Ayushman Bharat’.

He added, “This means that the major money will go into private healthcare service providers. Public sector service providers at grassroots’ level and augmenting these types of services, is missing in this budget too.”