Regulate private hospitals' COVID-19 charges: SC to Govt.

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The Supreme Court has asked the Union government to take necessary steps to regulate the “exorbitant” fees charged by private hospitals which are authorised to treat coronavirus patients.

The order was passed on Tuesday by a bench headed by Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde which observed that though a particular ceiling on cost of treatment might not be practicable for all states, the cost of medical treatment should not act as a deterrent against access to medical care, particularly in the present time.

The Court has held that no one should be turned away from the doors of healthcare institutions because the cost of treatment is too high. It was essential to issue necessary guidelines to ensure COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals remains affordable and accessible to all, the court observed.

The bench directed the Union Government to ensure a senior officer of the Union Govt. meets with the parties to the petition on July 16, 2020, and takes an appropriate decision within one week therefrom.

The decision shall be placed before the Supreme Court for approval of the directions or guidelines to be issued by the Union Govt. to the various states under the Disaster Management Act, it said.

The associations of private hospitals, NATHEALTH and AHPI, argued before the Court that a uniform price cap on treatment rates across all state borders would not be practical.

However, the civil society organisations All India Drug Action Network and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan- Mumbai (JSA-Mumbai) argued that guidelines were required to address various practices responsible for exorbitant billing by private hospitals (such as overcharging of PPE) and loopholes in existing measures implemented by various state governments, as well as to encourage adoption of models of states where free treatment is being provided.


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