Save Tax on Preventive Health Check-up
The Government of India has announced in 2011-2012 union budget tax benefits by widening the scope of Section 80D (IT Act). A complete tax waiver will be given on payment made on account of preventive health check-up up to Rs. 5000 within the overall deduction of Rs. 15,000 available with respect to premium paid towards a health insurance policy for self, spouse and children. A similar deduction is available for investments on policy for parents.
Ironically as the Indian healthcare industry grows at an astounding rate (12-13% annually) and by astronomical figures in terms of money, health itself is in a state of general decline. Paradoxes are abound as we look at health indicators; on the one hand the average life expectancy in India has risen over the years (64.7 at present) while on the other the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that the country ranks very high among the nations affected by the rising wave of premature deaths caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Latest statistics suggest that 53% of all deaths in 2008 occurred due to any of the life-style ailments – heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc.
The jarring contradictions are further brought to contrast by the fact that even though the Government of India spends the highest among the developing nations on healthcare (5.25% of the GDP), 3.2 crore people go below the poverty line every year because of catastrophic out-of-pocket payments on health. Quoting the report of the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, the poorest 10% of the population rely on sales of their assets or on borrowings, severely hampering the economic prospects for generations to come.
Ignorance of health issues afflict the rich and the poor in equal measure. The result is an epidemic of health conditions like overweight and obesity, high blood pressure and blood cholesterol, hypertension, etc. caused by risk factors like tobacco use, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diet, ultimately leading to heart-attack, cancers, diabetes, respiratory disorders, and so on and so forth. About 12.57 lakh people died of heart conditions in 2008, 9.83 lakh people died of diabetes in 2011 and 5.56 lakh people died of cancers in 2010. An overwhelming majority lost their lives in the prime of their youth during the productive years, and the present situation shows no signs of any improvement.
On a brighter note the adverse circumstances posed by the burden of NCDs has forced the government to advocate the cause of preventive healthcare. The report of the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (2005) prepared with the assistance of the ministry of health and family welfare (Govt. of India) states that “prevention of diseases, particularly non-communicable diseases that are expensive to treat, is the most cost-effective strategy for a country facing scarce resources.”A greater awareness of one’s health status aided by preventive health check-ups along with the requisite changes in life-style has the potential to become a promising road to redemption, in the days to come.