Maharashtra government puts price cap on private hospitals for Covid treatmentUpdated: May 22, 2020 00:33 IST
The state health department has decided on a price cap for the treatment of Covid-19 at private medical facilities following reports of patients being charged exorbitant fees at private hospitals. Restrictions will also be imposed on the billing of medicines at these facilities. The government resolution (GR) with the new guidelines was passed on Thursday night.
Earlier in the day, the health department fixed caps on how much private medical establishments may charge when treating Covid-19 patients. Once the GR is passed, private hospitals will be able to charge up to ₹4,000 per day for a general bed; ₹7,500 per day in the intensive care unit (ICU); and ₹9,000 per day if a patient is on a ventilator. The charges will also include meals.All private hospitals are liable to follow the rules laid down by the state government during a pandemic according to the Epidemic Diseases Act.
Dr Sudhakar Shinde, chief executive officer of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana, said, “This [amount] will include the treatment fees, consultancy fees of doctors along with other expenses. Private hospitals can’t charge more than the fixed amount.”
“Some patients may need moderately-costly medicines but the hospitals can’t charge more than 10% extra for such drugs,” he added, addressing reports of private hospitals charging between 40% and 50% more than the cost price for certain prescribed drugs. “High- end drugs like immunoglobulin, Meropenem, Parenteral nutrition, tocilizumab etc can be charged at MRP,” the GR said.
According to the health department, it faced severe opposition from private hospitals when arriving at these new guidelines.
“In March, when private hospitals were allowed to provide treatment to Covid-19 patients, the health department only imposed a price cap of ₹4,000 on general beds. But we didn’t provide bifurcation of other medical requirements which led to the exploitation of patients which we had to amend,” said an officer privy to the developments.
Chief executive officer of Lilavati Hospital Dr V Ravishankar said that the hospital would abide by orders issued by the government.
Politician Rais Sheikh, who has been vocal in his criticism of private hospitals overcharging patients, said, “At a time when the government is planning to take over 80% of the beds from private hospitals, they had to decide on the rates of the beds so that the hospitals don’t exploit patients further.”
Health advocates have welcomed the state health department’s decision. “Non-Covid footfalls of patients in hospitals have decreased by 90%, so only Covid-positive patients are their source of income. So, they started extracting their income from these patients which is unethical. Most of the senior citizens don’t even have medical insurance,” said Dr Manohar Kamath, general secretary of Consumer Guidance Society of India (CGSI).
Many Covid-19 patients are referred to private hospitals due to unavailability of beds in the government and civic-run hospitals.
HT has previously reported how a relative of a Covid-positive patient had to pay ₹16 lakh for a 15-day stay in a private hospital and how some families had to take out loans to pay private hospitals bills. On May 4, HT had reported how private hospitals like Nanavati Hospital charged ₹8,000 to ₹9,800 per personal protective equipment (PPE) even though the cost of PPE ranges between ₹350 and ₹1,000.