File photo of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. (Source: PTI)

GST Council-Like Federal Body Needed In Healthcare, Farm Sectors, Says Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday made a case for developing a federal institution like the Goods and Service Tax Council in the healthcare and farm sectors.

He hoped that such a federal body in healthcare sector should face least resistance from states, since the welfare schemes would be implemented through the states, with Centre only coordinating it.

"The federal institution experiment of the GST having succeeded..There are two other sectors which eminently require federal institutions of this kind.”

"The GST was constitutionally provided for,” Jaitley said while addressing the CII Health Summit. “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."

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.

Jaitley said the states have their hospitals and the Centre is also establishing institutes of eminence 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 benefit patient population of the country. Obviously it will be implemented through the states, with Centre coordinating it.”

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"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," Jaitley added.

"We have had 31 meeting and taken several decisions, all unanimously. So 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 least resistance (for a federal institution), because it’s a welfare-targeted programmes where we can move significantly a long way in making sure India remains healthier," he said.

Recalling the roll out of healthcare scheme Ayushman Bharat, Jaitley said when the scheme was being conceptualised, 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.

Also read: Ayushman Bharat: All You Need to Know About the New Health Scheme

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 hospitalisation through a network of empanelled health care providers.

"I foresee in next three-four 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 realisation and patients going to these institutions and institutions also improving in terms of expertise," Jaitley said.