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Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Central government to amend EPF scheme to enable members buy homes
Government will amend EPF scheme to enable around 4 crore members of retirement fund body EPFO to withdraw up to 90 per cent of their fund for making down payments while buying homes, Parliament was informed today. The amendment in the scheme will also allow the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) subscribers to use their EPF accounts for paying equated monthly instalments (EMIs) of home loans.
Under the new proposed provision in the EPF scheme, EPFO subscribers would have to form a cooperative society with at least 10 members for availing the facility. “The Government has taken a decision for modification in the Employees’ Provident Funds (EPF) Scheme, 1952, to add a new paragraph 68 BD,” Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on a query about Housing Scheme for the members of EPFO.
The minister told the House that the new proviso provides that “a member of Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) being a member of a co-operative society or a housing society having at least 10 members of EPF, can withdraw upto 90 per cent from the fund for purchase of dwelling house/flat or construction of dwelling house/acquisition of site.”
The proposed proviso also provides that “monthly instalments for repayments of any outstanding payments or interest may also be paid from the amount standing to the credit of the member, to the Government/housing agency/primary lending agency or banks concerned.”
The minister also told the House that the proposed paragraph to be inserted in EPF scheme has not been notified, therefore, no targets have been fixed (for giving advances under this facility). The minister told the House that the total number of EPF member accounts as on March, 31, 2016, as per Annual Report for 2015-16, is 17.14 crore.
He further said that on an average, contributions have been received in respect of 3.76 crore members during the year 2015-16. The withdrawal facility from the Provident Fund (PF) account under the Scheme will be available to only those PF members who fulfil the conditions prescribed, he said.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Govt caps prices of coronary stents in huge relief to heart patients
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) on Tuesday capped prices of coronary stents, a move that will provide major relief to cardiac patients. A stent is a tiny expandable metal scaffold to open up narrowed or blocked arteries.
According to a notification on NPPA’s website, the ceiling price of bare metal stents has been fixed at Rs7,260 per unit and that of drug eluting stents and biodegradable stents has been fixed at Rs29,600 per unit. The ceiling price excludes local tax and will come into effect immediately. This price is also applicable to all stocks in the trade channel.
NPPA carried out consultations with stakeholders for fixing the ceiling price of coronary stents and considered all available information and data on prices.
“During deliberations, it was found that huge unethical markups are charged at each stage in the supply chain of coronary stents resulting in irrational, restrictive and exorbitant prices in a failed market system driven by information asymmetry between the patient and doctors pushing patients to financial misery,” NPPA said in the notification.
The Union health ministry, following the recommendations of an expert sub-committee, notified the decision to include coronary stents under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) in July 2016. As per the law, drugs and devices listed in the NLEM must be sold at the price fixed by NPPA.
A bare metal stent costs Rs7,000-20,000. Drug-eluting stents, which are inserted into diseased coronary arteries and release drugs to prevent cell proliferation, make up almost 95% of the market and cost Rs30,000-80,000, while the price of a dissolvable stent in India is Rs2-3 lakh.
Almost 60% of the stents market, valued at about $500 million, is shared by multinational firms such as Abbott Laboratories, Medtronic, Meril Lifesciences Pvt Ltd and Boston Scientific Corp.
The health care industry had been lobbying hard to block the government’s move to cap stents prices as it would hurt margins.