75% Covid patients overcharged by private hospitals in Maharashtra despite price cap: Survey

Published on Sep 29, 2021 07:17 PM IST

Of the 2,579 Covid patients and their families that were surveyed across 34 districts in Maharashtra, a majority of 95.4% of patients had taken treatment in the private hospitals while 4.6% were treated in the public sector

Nearly 75% of Covid-19 patients who were treated at private hospitals in the state were overcharged despite a price cap set by the Maharashtra government, a new survey has found (HT PHOTO)
Nearly 75% of Covid-19 patients who were treated at private hospitals in the state were overcharged despite a price cap set by the Maharashtra government, a new survey has found (HT PHOTO)
ByJyoti Shelar, Mumbai

Nearly 75% of Covid-19 patients who were treated at private hospitals in the state were overcharged despite a price cap set up by the Maharashtra government, a new survey has found. Of the 2,579 patients and their families that were surveyed across 34 districts in the state, a majority of 95.4% of patients had taken treatment in the private sector while 4.6% were treated in the public sector.

Health activists said that the findings of the survey were shocking and called for a detailed audit of the bills by the state authorities. “If a sample size of 2,500 odd patients shows such high level of overcharging by private hospitals, one can imagine the plight of lakhs of patients in the state,” said public health expert Dr Abhay Shukla, co-convenor of Jan Arogya Abhiyan that carried out the survey along with Maharashtra Corona Ekal Mahila Punarvasan Samiti.

The survey was carried out this month and covered 317 patients and their families who were affected in the first wave of the pandemic and 2,262 patients and their families from the second wave.

Of the surveyed patients, 1,294 had recovered while 1,295 had succumbed to the infection. Of the deceased, 1,059 were men who left behind their wives and children.

In May 2020, the Maharashtra government had invoked five laws to cap the prices of private hospitals due to the pandemic. The state further extended the cap during the second wave as well. “The price cap for ventilator and intensive care unit (ICU) beds was 9,000 per day, ICU beds were capped at 7,500 per day and isolation beds were capped at 4,000,” said Shukla. “Our survey revealed that despite this capping, patients admitted in private hospitals were being charged an average of 21,215. Overall, our survey found that patients were overcharged by an average of 155,934,” he said.

The survey also studied the cost of medicines that the families were asked to purchase from outside. In the public sector, families spent an average of 17,000 on medications from outside, while in the private sector, the average spending on medication was about 90,000.

The costly treatment and the overcharging have left many families in debt. Patients were also given a cocktail of drugs, without any explanations or justifications to the family.

“It felt like the doctors were conducting research by trying all the available medicines,” said Nashik resident Riddhi Kshirsagar who lost her husband due to Covid-19 in the second wave. She spent nearly 18 lakh for his treatment.

Family members of the deceased said that an ex-gratia amount of 50,000 will hardly be of any help. “We should be given jobs,” said Seema Bhagwat, who lost her husband in the second wave after a 38-day long hospital stay and eventually contracting mucormycosis. She spent nearly 16 lakh on the treatment.

Many family members have defaulted their loan instalments, sold off their gold jewellery and land plots to cover the treatment costs of their loved ones.

“Introducing a price cap was a good step by the state, but its implementation has not been done,” said Shakuntala Bhalerao of Jan Arogya Abhiyan. “We are calling upon the state to conduct a detailed audit and get the hospitals to return the overcharged amount to patients in one month,” she said.

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