The move towards the universal healthcare, comprehensive healthcare centres and new medical colleges will help in bridging the gap between the rural and urban divide, say healthcare players.

Prathap C Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals, said in a statement that initiative to cover 10 crore families with Rs 5 lakh per family/per year with insurance cover for secondary and tertiary healthcare will be a game changer. Suneeta Reddy, Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals, said in a statement, “The initiative that amounts $800 billion dollars tops even the US’ Medicaid programme which amounts to USD 550 billion,” she added.

In addition to the universal health coverage, the Budget saw allocation of Rs 1200 crore for the setting up comprehensive healthcare centres that focussed on non-communicable diseases and to distribute free drugs and offer diagnostics services. Around 24 medical colleges and hospitals will be set up and the existing ones will be upgraded. Additionally around Rs 600 crore was allocated for nutritional support to tuberculosis patients.

Ameera Shah, Promoter and Managing Director, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, said that the universal health coverage and 24 more medical colleges are the only way to combat the lack of talent in the industry. V Thiyagarajan, MD, India Home Health Care, said that the budget, which focused on rural folks, will bridge the gap between the rural and urban population. Additionally utilising 1.5 lakh healthcare centres across the country will bring the health benefits to almost all the households. “However, the budget should have covered the areas of palliative care, chronic and critical illnesses,” he added.

Arindam Haldar, CEO, SRL Diagnostics, said though the focus on the healthcare is welcome, there was no mention about the diagnostics sector. “It would be a welcome step if out-patient diagnostics costs/coverage is covered in this limit. The absence of coverage for outpatient care and pre-existing diseases is an impediment to a comprehensive and affordable health insurance cover,” he added.