‘Allocations to health sector reflect poll year gimmick’

Namrata Devikar
Saturday, 2 February 2019

Ayushman Bharat was launched last year as the National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.

PUNE: Presenting the interim budget, Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs, Railways and Coal, Piyush Goyal, on Friday said ‘Ayushman Bharat’ will provide medical treatment to nearly 50 crore people in the country. Around 10 lakh patients have already benefited through free medical treatment, which would have collectively cost them Rs 3,000 crore.


Reacting to this, health experts said though the project is ambitious, this budget is a gimmick in the election year.

Ayushman Bharat was launched last year as the National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.

Speaking to Sakal Times, Dr Abhijit More, a health expert from Jan Arogya Abhiyan, said though the budget for Ayushman Bharat has been increased by Rs 7,000 crore, other important national schemes and programmes are thoroughly neglected in this budget.

“The National Health Mission (NHM) received a nominal increase than last year. Under the NHM, many other schemes are run which holistically help children and women. Also, the allocation for Reproductive Child Health (RCH) was reduced in 2018-2019. This has been further slashed this year,” said Dr More. He said in RCH, Rs 500 has been reduced. “Also, for health and wellness centres that were introduced in last year’s budget, this year, there is no mention. The budget for 2019-2020 clearly focuses on making these health facilities private for citizens,” added More.

Echoing similar views, Dr Arun Gadre, public health expert, said the budgetary raise for Ayushman Bharat is good. However, the overall allocation is just an election gimmick. “The increase in funds is unclear as to how they will be used. Moreover, NHM and RCH allocations have reduced. The government intends to increase health budget each year but the reality is different,” said Dr Gadre.

- Overall Rs 7,000 crore increase in the health care budget. The PMJAY scheme under Ayushman Bharat alone has gained Rs 4,000 crore more while no significant increase for the NHM.
- Overall the budget of Health and Family Welfare Ministry has been increased from Rs 54,302 crore to Rs 61,398 crore, which is a 12.9-pc increase.
- The highest gainer is the PMJAY, which has got Rs 6,400 crore. Last year, it was Rs 2,400 crore.
- However, Health and Wellness Centre component of Ayushman Bharat received marginal Rs 400 crore as compared to last year. Only Rs 1,600 crore is allocated for HWCs, which is insignificant considering 1.5 lakh HWCs.
- In 2018-19, the budget for NHM was reduced by Rs 900 crore as compared to 2017-18. This is restored now. Rs 31,745 crore is allocated for NHM. Money for the NRHM has been marginally increased by Rs 546 crore while for the National Urban Health Mission, it has been increased by barely Rs 75 crore.
- The Reproductive and Child Health Flexi Pool (Rs 6,758 crore) is slashed further by Rs 512 crore as compared to 2018-19 (Rs 7,270 crore). It is shocking that in 2018-19, it was slashed by Rs 3,800 crore as compared to 2017-18 when it was Rs 11,000 crore.

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