Union Budget 2014-15: Healthcare industry hails budget, welcomes cigarette excise

tobacco taxesStakeholders of the healthcare sector Thursday hailed the union budget for its stress on quality healthcare and increase in the excise duty on tobacco and tobacco products. 'Provisions in this year's budget for healthcare are indicative of the focus on ensuring that quality healthcare reaches every level of the demographic pyramid,' said Amit Mookim, partner and head of healthcare practice of KPMG. 'Provisions like AIIMS in all states, 12 more medical colleges and 15 Model Rural Health Research Centres also aim to address the infrastructure deficit and bridge the rural-urban disparity,' he said.

However, Mookim said the healthcare sector should have been provided with an industry status with incentives for domestic manufacturing of medical devices and consumables. There has been an increased allocation of 27 percent for the healthcare sector in the union budget. B.C. Roy, national vice president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), said: 'I am really happy with the budget as per the healthcare sector is concerned.' 'Better sanitation, with the Swastha Bharat Abhiyan campaign will help check communicable diseases. Importantly, increase in prices of pan masala, tobacco and soft drinks will help decrease the incidence of diseases caused by consumption of these products.'

The government's decision to increase excise duty on cigarettes in the range of 11 to 72 percent is the most the healthcare industry is the happiest. 'Increasing taxes means a win-win for the state, it increases revenue, reduces consumption and saves lives, reduces state burden of treatment costs,' said Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, executive director of the Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI). 'It is globally accepted that 'triple the taxes, double the revenue, halve consumption'.'

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'When tobacco prices go up, smoking and other tobacco uses go down, especially among vulnerable groups such as youth, pregnant women and low-income smokers.' The Free Drugs Service and Free Diagnosis Service are being seen as good steps in achieving health for all. 'It is heartening to note that the budget has addressed key public health issues that require utmost attention. The Free Drugs Service and Free Diagnosis Service will go a long way in achieving health for all, a critical prerequisite of a prosperous nation,' said Naresh Kapoor, director for finance and strategy at B.L. Kapoor Super Speciality Hospital.

Source: IANS

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