As Maharashtra and many other parts of the country flounder under the growing Covid-19 assault, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Supriya Sule on Monday urged Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to announce policy incentives to encourage investments in the crucial health sector.
In her three-page letter listing 15 policy suggestions, Sule drew Sitharaman’s attention to the heartbreaking scenes witnessed outside hospitals where patients struggle to find beds or dying gasping for oxygen.
“Despite spending more money on a health insurance scheme to enable people to access treatment in private hospitals, we neither see large scale investments in setting up new hospitals nor do we see many of them procuring the latest equipment as there are no policies that encourage private hospitals to re-invest their incomes in the health sector,” she said.
Sule cited how the country is witnessing “an unprecedented pandemic,” but the country’s health infrastructure is being exposed as inadequate to tackle the challenge.
The Baramati MP also urged that Sitharaman should consider implementing the 15-point policy interventions to encourage both private and public sector investments in the health-care sector with both short-term and long-term impact on improving the health outcomes in the country.
Among the suggestions are to include health sector under a separate category under the priority sector lending like the agricultural sector, with a minimum 3 per cent of the total capital deposited with the bank, and an upper limit of Rs 1,000 crore per organisation.
Sule suggested interest subvention scheme for private hospitals/clinics in the mofussil, peri-urban and small towns for setting up new enterprises or capacity expansion of upto Rs 100 crore.
She sought waiver of the processing fee for loans to the healthcare sector, holding ‘special loan melas’ to create awareness of policy changes and same-day sanction of loans to hospitals or manufacturers.
Sule said those taxpayers making financial donations or medicines or equipment could be given exemption under Income Tax Act’s Section 80G with a ceiling of Rs 5 lakh in a financial year and donations should be permitted directly into bank accounts of hospitals even if they are not registered as a trust, and donations to government hospitals should be 100 percent exempt. For charitable or private hospitals under Central or state schemes, there should be a 75 per cent waiver and 50 per cent for private hospitals.
The Centre could set up an online platform to publish the list of equipment and medicines with specifications and costs, and hospitals could respond with their demands on the same platform and people could make online contributions or place orders through the e-market, she suggested.
She called for GST exemptions to life-saving drugs and medical equipments to encourage their domestic production.
Sule also sought exemption from EMI on education loans to healthcare workers for the period they are actively serving Covid patients, education loans of healthcare or frontline workers getting infected or dying while on duty should be waived off, besides certain other suggestions.