SC notice to Centre in plea to regulate Covid-19 treatment costsUpdated: Apr 30, 2020 19:28 IST
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the response of the central government in a plea to regulate the cost of treatment for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients at private hospitals across the country.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, issued notice to the central government in the petition filed by a lawyer, Sachin Jain, who claimed that private hospitals are exploiting Covid-19 patients by charging exorbitant amounts for their treatment and were making a fortune out of their miseries amid the nationwide healthcare emergency.
“The state should combat the commercial exploitation by private hospitals and bring in necessary regulations on the tariff structure for regulating private hospitals for treatment of Covid-19 patients,” the petition prayed.
Jain, in his petition, referred to a news report published on April 3, which had stated that insurance companies revealed that private hospitals were saddling customers with inflated bills that were, in turn, passed on to the insurance firms.
“A reputed insurance company confirmed that it had, till April 2, settled 41 insurance claims of Covid-19 and the maximum amounted to Rs 6.5 lakh. Another well-known insurance company has stated that it has been receiving an average claim size of Rs 5-6 lakh for treatment of Covid-19 patients at private hospitals,” the petition stated.
The size of the claims, the petitioner submitted, was a matter of grave concern and the insurance companies had stated that the bills were highly inflated and unreasonable.
One such incident cited by an insurance firm was where a private hospital used personal protective equipment (PPE) units such as 300 gloves and one coverall suit on a Covid-19 patient in a single day.
The insurance companies have even started rejecting claims of Covid-19 patients by up to 50% of the amount, the petitioner submitted.
“If such inflated bills can become a cause of concern for the insurance industry, what will be the plight of the common man, who neither has a fat wallet nor an insurance coverage plan?” the petition said.
Jain also sought a direction from the apex court to be issued to these private hospitals, who are functioning on public land, to treat Covid-19 patients pro bono or on a no-profit basis.
Jain prayed that the central government should bear the expenses incurred at private hospitals by poor and vulnerable people, who don’t have any insurance coverage plan.
“Medical treatment owes a constitutional duty to treat the have-nots and a person cannot be refused treatment merely on the ground that he is not in a position to afford the fee payable for such expensive treatment,” the petition added.