Chennai: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will present the Budget on March 16. Citizen journalists Mariam Nasreen and Thomas Geevarghese want the finance minister to increase medical reimbursement limit. Health services have become more expensive since the medical reimbursement limit of Rs 15,000 was set back in 2001. Nasreen and Geevarghese want the finance minister to increase the limit to Rs 50,000.
Nasreen is blind and has spent the last 18 years suffering from muscle spasms and is blind. She has multiple sclerosis, for which there's no cure. Her family spends Rs 70,000 a month on injections, administered every alternate day. It drains their finances, but, there's little option.
"Once even if I stop the medicines for one or two days, I get severe symptoms. So I can't stop the injections or the tablets, I have to be very regular in that," Nasreen said.
Although there is no such medical emergency for their twin sons, Thomas Geeverghese and his wife, Sheeja, have spent Rs 30,000 in the last one year on prescribed vaccinations for them.
Geevarghese, an IT professional, said, "They are just two years old. You know up to 2.5 years, there are a lot of vaccinations to be taken for the kids and since vaccination costs have gone up, not lightly but it's gone up very high, so for the two kids, definitely it's gonna double what we're actually spending on a kid."
Both families get little tax relief on the money they spend. Under the provisions of the Income Tax Act, medical reimbursement up to Rs 15,000 is tax exempt.
The exemption limit was last revised in the year 2000 and healthcare costs have increased considerably since then.
A 2-day stay at a private hospital for even a routine surgery costs anything between Rs 30-40,000. The current exemption limit leaves little leeway for the middle class incomes, given the spiralling costs of healthcare.
Geevarghese said, "I would like to request our honourable Finance Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee to consider increasing the current medical exemption of Rs 15000 to Rs 50000, which will be a great relief for working class people like us."