Does the Budget's health allocation do enough? | In Focus podcast

Avani Kapur speaks to us on the affordability of healthcare and the other factors crucial to improving health indicators

On February 1, when the Union Budget 2022 was unveiled, there was much hope and expectation for the health sector. 2022 continues to be a pandemic year, with the third wave of COVID-19 hitting the country, and the government has made a commitment to increasing the allocation for health to 2.5% of the GDP by 2025.

However, the Budget speech by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman did not give the sector much cause for cheer. Though the overall allocation for health went up by about 16%, from Rs. 73,931 crore last year to Rs. 86,200 crore this year, the Centre actually ended up spending Rs. 82,920 crore last year, making the actual allocation for this year only about 0.2 % higher. The Finance Minister did announce two big schemes — an open platform for a national digital health eco-system with a registry of all health providers and a unique health identity for all, as well as a National Tele-Mental Health Programme.

Digital health has gained ground in the country, especially during the last two years when most parts of the country were under various lockdowns. The push to boost mental health, which has for too long not received the attention it needs in the country, has been welcomed. But what happens to primary health care in urban and rural areas, the need for which was badly felt during the devastating second wave of the pandemic last year? And how many can still afford quality healthcare in the country — how has the national health insurance scheme worked, and what is its budgetary allocation? And has enough money been allocated to sanitation and hygiene, pollution mitigation and nutrition — all of which are crucial to improving health indicators?

Guest: Avani Kapur, Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and Lead Accountability Initiative

Host: Zubeda Hamid

Edited by Reenu Cyriac

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