Healthcare needs more than rollback

Victory for people, now press for more public spending


Sonal Matharu | March 22, 2011

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday announced a rollback of the five percent service tax on healthcare which was proposed in this year’s budget.

The budget had proposed that a five percent service tax will be charged on the services offered by private, centrally air-conditioned hospitals with more than 25 beds strength and on all diagnostic centres. The healthcare sector was up in arms against this tax which many said would burn a deeper hole in the pockets of the sick.

The doctors who vigorously spoke against the obnoxious step by the government to tax the sick are overwhelmed by the unity shown by the entire medical fraternity in convincing the government not to go ahead with the implementation of the tax.
India is heavily dependent on the private sector for healthcare with almost 80 percent of the needs met by the private hospitals. With less than one percent insurance coverage in India, most of the expenses on medical treatments incurred by the people are out-of-pocket.

The five percent service tax would have been added in the medical bills of the patients who would go to a private hospital not out of choice but out of need, given the crippling public health infrastructure in the country. The patient would have had to shell out more for even a simple medical procedure or diagnostic as hospitals and diagnostic centres cannot operate without air-conditioning.

Civil society has been making noise for long about the long neglected issues of healthcare like the meager public spending on health and quality concerns at private hospitals, including the corporate hospitals.

Instead of regulating the unorganised public and private hospitals and other clinical establishments, the government decided to make money out of a patient’s misery. Expensive medical treatments are already unaffordable for many and the new tax would have further shot up the healthcare expenditure.

If the idea was to tax the corporate hospitals in India, it should have been clearly spelt out. There should be regular checks to make sure the free beds the private hospitals are obliged to provide to poor patients are occupied and that the hospitals do not refuse treatment to those who cannot pay. The government should also stop handing over land to corporate hospitals at highly subsidised prices as these hospitals, once ready, run like any money-making business entity and make huge profits.

However, the government cannot ignore the distressed migration to the private healthcare sector in India. Keeping the larger interest of the sick who seek treatment at private hospitals, it’s a great relief for all that the tax has been rolled back.



Other News

Making sense of the ‘crisis of political representation’

Imprints of the Populist Time By Ranabir Samaddar Orient BlackSwan, 352 pages, Rs. 1105 The crisis of liberal democracy in the neoliberal world—marked by massive l

Budget: Highlights

Union minister of finance and corporate affairs Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget 2023-24 in Parliament on Wednesday. The highlights of the Budget are as follows: PART A     Per capita income has more than doubled to Rs 1.97 lakh in around

Budget presents vision for Amrit Kaal: A blueprint for empowered, inclusive economy

Union Budget 2023-24, presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Parliament on Wednesday, outlined the vision of Amrit Kaal which shall reflect an empowered and inclusive economy.  “We envision a prosperous and inclusive India, in which the fruits of development reach all regions an

Soumya Swaminathan to head M S Swaminathan Research Foundation

Former World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan takes charge as chairperson of M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) from February 1.   Founded by her father, the legendary agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan, MSSRF was set up to accelerate the use of m

m-Governance: Key to Digital India

The digital revolution is being led by India. Digital governance is a key component of the government's ambition to transform India into a society where everyone has access to the internet. It includes both M-governance and E-governance, which are major methods for the delivery of services via mobile devic

A sacred offering of the beauty of ‘Saundarya Lahari’ – in English

Saundarya Lahari: Wave of Beauty Translated from the Sanskrit by Mani Rao HarperCollins, 218 pages, Rs 399 ‘Saundarya Lahari’, usually ascribed to Adi Shankaracharya, has a unique status among the religious-spiritual works of Hinduism.

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Current Issue


Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter