Observing that the Centre had acknowledged that socio-economic development goals could only be achieved on the foundation of a healthy population, Poonam Muttreja, the executive director of the Population Foundation of India, said this belief was reflected in the National Health Policy.
The government had said it would increase spending on health from 1.15 per cent to 2.5 per cent of the GDP by 2025, she said, adding that it had also renewed its pledge on family planning by committing three billion dollars towards stabilising the population at a conference last year.
"However, during the last financial year (2016-17), only 60.7 per cent of the funds for family planning were spent," she said.
This year, she added, the health sector hoped to see an increase in budgetary allocation and expenditure.
"Along with an increase in budgetary allocation, we hope to see an increase in expenditure and strengthening of the health systems that would enable better utilisation of the family planning budgets, thereby facilitating the government to translate their vision into action," she said.
Dr Usha Manjunath, director of the Institute of Health Management & Research, Bangalore, said the government had set short-term and medium-term targets for key health indicators and sought to bring down the Maternal Mortality Rate to 100 by 2018-2020 and the Infant Mortality Rate to 28 by 2019.
Noting that the finance minister had announced the preparation of action plans to eliminate Kala Azar and Filariasis by 2017, leprosy by 2018, measles by 2020 and tuberculosis by 2025, Dr Manjunath said some of the targets appeared ambitious and would need to be backed up by concrete strategies and initiatives as well as fund allocation.
"National Health Policy 2017 promises to increase public health spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP in a time-bound manner and guarantees health care services to all Indian citizens, specifically to the underprivileged."
"This is a realistic one but action on the ground and budget allocation and utilisation should be meticulously planned and implemented," she added.
Dr Manjunath said the move towards provision of a more comprehensive primary care by converting 1.5 lakh sub-centres in villages to health and wellness centres was a positive development and a systematic budgetary allocation and implementation should begin.
"However, no specific announcements were made for combating non-communicable diseases which account for nearly 75 per cent of the disease burden. The present budget must take this into consideration," she said.
Talking about medical devices, implants and disposables, Dr Manjunath pointed out that most of these were imported. A boost to the pharmaceutical sector would be of great help while indigenously-manufactured devices and implants could be globally sold.
Dr Manjunath said the government's National Health Protection Scheme was expected to provide a Rs 1 lakh health insurance cover to all BPL families (up to Rs 1 lakh annual income).
"It can further rolled up to include families with up to Rs 2 lakh income," she said.
She said the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) was a health insurance scheme for people below the poverty line and the scheme issues a health card, which enables them to receive inpatient medical care of up to Rs 30,000 in government or private hospitals.
"Budget 2018 should increase this amount to Rs 1 lakh to provide a more inclusive health insurance to the poor."
"Additionally, critical care and OPD care should be an inherent part of the scheme. As an additional advantage to senior citizens, the sum insured for this category should be increased to more than Rs 1 lakh," she said.