GST expected to have positive impact on high cost healthcare, pharmaceutical sector

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Editorial

Thomas Lim
As the nation still debates on the impact Goods and Services Tax (GST) implemented since July 1, 2017, the paper: ‘Indian Healthcare Sector- An Overview’ reveals that the new Law will have a positive impact on the Indian healthcare market, particularly on the pharmaceutical sector.  GST would not only streamline taxation structure but lead to ease of doing business by minimizing cascading effect of many taxes applied to a product, rationalize supply chain, enable flow of seamless tax credit, lower manufacturing cost, reduce cost of technology and make healthcare affordable.
The healthcare cost has been very high in India for the last few months. Since the implementation of GST, the patients are paying through their nose, as blanket tax was imposed on all pharmaceutical products, including the life saving drugs and oxygen and Pathology Testing Labs. Actually, the price also includes the old VAT (Value Added Tax).

Meanwhile, the Indian healthcare market is likely to reach $372 billion by 2022 in a threefold growth in value terms, industry chamber Assocham exposed on December 3, 2017, citing its latest study on the subject.
The study also pointed out that growing lifestyle diseases, rising demand for affordable healthcare due to increasing healthcare costs, technological advancements, emergence of telemedicine, rapid health insurance penetration, mergers and acquisitions helping to reach untapped markets and government initiatives like tax benefits, incentives and a host of regulatory policies are driving the healthcare market in India.
According to Assocham, the Indian pharmaceutical market is third largest globally in terms of volume and 13th largest in terms of value. Imports, however, make up about 75 per cent of Indian medical devices market, according to the study. It said generic drugs account for about 70 per cent of the $20 billion worth Indian pharmaceutical market.
In Meghalaya, the elite and affluent are having the best of health care from outside the state, and some even abroad. While the middleclass and Below Poverty Line sectors cannot afford to seek any treatment from the Private Hospitals in the state due to high fees. The government hospitals and Health Centers will either lack medicine stock or have absentee doctors, especially in the rural areas.
Just increasing the MBBS seats, opening more nursing schools and medical colleges will not help in extending quality health services to the rural areas and the middle class and BPL sectors. As most of the government sponsored candidates, after completing the studies via government quotas, refuse to serve in the rural areas and some even in the state. Hence increasing the MBBS seats or opening of nursing schools and medical college will only cater to a handful of candidates with influential backing, while the qualified will have to change their profession.
The shortage of doctors in the rural areas or in the country is considered as artificial shortage, because it is just that the government failed to either bring back the graduate doctors or political influences will keep local doctors away from rural villages. Health care on the other hand is extremely expensive in private sectors; hence high percentages of the population here cannot afford health care in private hospitals.
The government should take stern actions against those defaulters who refuse to serve in rural villages. Also, government should streamline the room charges and other fees of the private hospitals to enable all sections of the population to seek proper treatment. At the same time the senior doctors too should be posted to rural villages as one of the criteria for promotion. Those who refuse to serve; the licenses to practice should be cancelled with immediate effect. It is also the same Constitutional Rights of the villages and economically weak society to avail proper health care within the state.
The manpower in most of the hospitals in Meghalaya still lacks professionalism, and the medical practitioners in the state, even those who are serving here, are either on experimental basis or simply took up the noble profession as one of the money making business in nexus with clinical lab and pharmacy as exposed few days back in Bengaluru.
It is not just the GST which can streamline the health care; in Meghalaya we need the political power and mental attitude of the medical practitioners to serve the society, and the stake holders to have more humane approach to the ones who need medical care. 


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