The Indian Medical Association on Saturday requested Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to withdraw the imposition of Goods and Services Tax on healthcare services, saying the step will raise the cost of running hospitals and clinics in the country.
Referring to a recommendation by the 47th GST council which stated that "like CTEPs, common bio-medical waste treatment facilities for treatment or disposal of biomedical waste shall be taxed at 12 percent so as to allow them ITC", the Indian Medical Association (IMA) said these facilities were earlier in the GST exempted category and will be taxed post-July 18.
The doctors' body also cited another recommendation which stated that “room rent, excluding ICU, exceeding Rs 5,000 per day per patient charged by the hospital will also be taxed at 5 percent, without input tax credit (ITC)". The IMA said, in its letter, that this facility was also GST (Goods and Services Tax) exempted and will now come under the purview of the GST norms post-July 18.
"We, as the collective voice of all establishments and doctors of the country, express our serious concerns and objections to these new taxes in the healthcare sector. This step will add big additional cost to the healthcare of people," the IMA's letter stated. "We request you to immediately withdraw any GST on healthcare services," it said.
The Association further rued that already the healthcare system of the country is not on track owing to meager government spending on health, adding that people are largely dependent upon the private sector with high out-of-pocket expenditures.
The decision of adding GST will simply raise the basic bed rates, it said. "Taxing room rent in a hospital is profiteering from the suffering of a sick person. It is no less than the 'Salt Tax' imposed by the British on Indians for which even the Father of our Nation Mahatama Gandhi had to protest," the IMA said in the letter. Similarly, it said, a steep rise of 12 percent in biomedical waste is unjustified and will raise the cost of running hospitals and clinics. It will further translate into raised charges for patients, the letter added.
"Application of GST will push healthcare towards a business model away from a service-centric one, and it will not be fair to our citizens already facing many hardships. So, it is our sincere and immediate request to withdraw the GST on room rent and biomedical waste in the larger interest of public healthcare," the IMA added.