Maharashtra imposes price cap on private hospitals treating Covid patients
Earlier in March, the state government had only imposed a price cap on the general bed charge at Rs 4,000 daily for private hospitals.Updated: May 21, 2020 20:26 IST
Maharashtra government on Thursday imposed a price cap on private hospitals treating coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients after allegations were flying thick and fast that many of these healthcare facilities were charging exorbitant fees in a bid to compensate for a 90% dip in the admission of non-Covid-19 patients.
Restrictions have also been imposed on the billing of medicines in private hospitals.
Earlier in March, the state government had only imposed a price cap on the general bed charge at Rs 4,000 daily for private hospitals.
However, the state health department is yet to clarify when the new rules will come into effect.
On May 4, HT had reported how private hospitals such as Mumbai’s Nanavati Hospital charged between Rs 8,000 and Rs 9,800 for a personal protective equipment (PPE) unit from Covid-19 patients. Usually, a PPE unit costs between Rs 350 and Rs 1,000, depending on its quantity.
In another case, a person complained that the same hospital charged Rs 16 lakh for the treatment of his father for 15 days, who later died of Covid-19.
Private hospitals have been allowed to charge up to Rs 4,000 daily for the treatment of Covid-19 patients on a general bed, Rs 7,000 for intensive care unit (ICU) and Rs 9,000 for a ventilator, according to the new guidelines issued by the state health department.
“This will include the fees of treatment, doctors’ consultancy along with other expenses. Private hospitals can’t charge extra than the fixed amount,” said Dr Sudhakar Shinde, chief executive officer (CEO) of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana.
Private hospitals have also been found to charge up to 50% more than the actual cost price of drugs.
“Some patients may need moderately costly medicines. Private hospitals can’t charge more than 10% extra for such drugs,” Dr. Shinde said.
State health department officials said that they had to face stiff resistance from private hospitals regarding the government’s bid to impose a price cap on Covid-19 treatment.
“In March, private hospitals were allowed to provide treatment to Covid-19 patients. The health department had imposed a price cap on a general bed’s daily charge at Rs 4,000. However, no restrictions were imposed on the price of drugs, which led to rampant exploitation of Covid-19 patients,” said a state health department official.
All private hospitals come under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and are liable to follow the rules of the state government amid the pandemic.
“We haven’t received the state health department order yet. We’ll abide by it,” said Dr. V Ravishankar, CEO of Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital.
Rais Sheikh, a politician, who has been critical of private hospitals for fleecing Covid-19 patients, said, “The state government is planning to take around 80% of beds of private hospitals. The authorities need to take a call on the daily charge of these private hospital beds.”
“Private hospital authorities have to contend with 90% less of non-Covid-19 patients because of the viral outbreak. Now, Covid-19 patients are their only source of income. They’re resorting to unethical practices to exploit unsuspecting patients. Besides, many Covid-19 patients, who are senior citizens, cannot avail of medical insurance because of their advanced age,” said Dr. Manohar Kamath, general secretary, Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI).
The state government offers three kinds of facilities to treat Covid-19 patients.
Government-run hospitals are offering treatment for free, while 1,000 hospitals are covered under the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana, which provides insurance coverage of Rs 1.5 lakh. Private hospitals have to provide treatment as per the concessional rate decided by the state government.