Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday made a case for developing a federal institution like GST Council in the healthcare and farm sector also.
He sees that such a federal body in the healthcare sector should face the least constraints from the states, since the welfare schemes would be applied through the states, with the coordination of the Centre.
“The federal institution experiment of the GST having successful practically, there are two other sectors which eminently require federal institutions of this kind.”The GST was constitutionally provided for. Those areas are not constitutionally provided for, but political maturity can impose on governments to try that experiment. One is healthcare and one is agriculture,” Jaitley said while addressing the CII Health Summit.
Listing out the necessity for setting up such a federal body, he said the states and Centre both spend on healthcare and have their respective schemes. The Minister, however, did not elaborate on the details of benefits which may accrue to the farm sector.
The Finance minister said the states have their hospital, and the Centre is also establishing institutes of importance across the country. The Centre has implemented Ayushman Bharat, and states also have similar schemes, he said.
“All these need to be merged so that the benefit of these merged resources starts to benefit the patient population of the country. Obviously, it will be implemented through the states, with Centre coordinating it.
“And if you have a federal institution, ultimately this is not a turf issue if my scheme is better than your scheme. It is essentially a welfare issue, whether the patients in my state are better than the patients in other states. Whether they have more facilities. Every state would stand to benefit if this coordination with such a federal institution actually came up between the Centre and states,” he adds.
In the run-up to the implementation of India’s biggest indirect tax overhaul Goods and Services Tax on July 1, 2017, the Centre and states had agreed to set up a GST Council, chaired by Union Finance Minister and comprising finance ministers of all states.
“We have had 31 meeting and taken several decisions, all unanimously. So a common tax system came up, merging central and state tax by virtue of a federal body which was coordinating it. That’s India’s first experiment by creating a federal institution.
“Healthcare is an area where there would be the least conflict (for a federal institution) because these are welfare targeted programs where we can move significantly a long way in making sure India remains healthier,” he said.
Recalling the outcome of healthcare scheme Ayushman Bharat, Jaitley said when the scheme was being conceptualized, there were discussions on whether it will succeed, how will private sector hospital treat patients, how will the queues and footfalls at hospitals be handled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September launched the Ayushman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana which aims to provide a coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family annually, benefiting more than 10.74 crore poor families for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization through a network of empanelled health care providers.
As many as 3 lakh poor people have benefited from Ayushman Bharat health scheme in the last one-and-a-half months.
“I foresee in next 3-4 years, this figure exponentially increasing as the campaign would be picking up so that the awareness that such a facility is available and this would lead to a far greater realization and patients going to these institutions and institutions also improving in terms of expertise,” Jaitley concluded.