Kerala Kaumudi Online
Saturday, 20 April 2024 9.16 AM IST

Supreme Court urges action on exorbitant hospital fees


One of the biggest challenges that ordinary families face today is the ever-increasing cost of healthcare. The situation is that even if you get a small fever, the disease will go away only if it reaches four digits. A good percentage of people, including the very poor, rely on private hospitals for various reasons. It is not because of lack of treatment in government hospitals. Most of the people seek private hospitals because of the practices there, the neglect they have to face and the severe shortage of medicines. The government itself is creating the conditions for private hospitals to flourish all over the country.

Complaints of private hospitals charging exorbitant fees from patients have been around for a long time. There is pressure on private hospitals to make fee rates affordable to the common man, but to no avail. In 2012, the Central Government introduced the Clinical Establishment Act for this purpose, but no state has yet unified the treatment charges. It will only be effective if the states and the laws and regulations are enacted following the Central Act. The other day, the central government told the Supreme Court that the state governments are showing great reluctance in this regard.

While considering a public interest petition filed by a voluntary organization seeking the Supreme Court's intervention to fix treatment charges in private hospitals at par with government hospitals. Observations from the court give hope to common people. The court reminded that excessive treatment charges in private hospitals should be controlled. It is not possible for the central government to shirk its responsibility by saying that the states are shirking. The court reminded that if the government still hesitates, the court will have to intervene on its own and fix an amount equal to the rate charged by CGHS. The Center has the power to compel states that are reluctant to implement the provisions of the Clinical Establishment Act. That responsibility must be fulfilled without hesitation. The court has directed that the central stand on the issue be announced when the petition is re-considered on April 6.

Hospitals charge different rates for the same treatment. Even with standard treatment, there is a big difference. The court had pointed out the huge difference in rates charged by hospitals for cataract surgery for the elderly. While a government hospital charges Rs 10,000, private hospitals charge Rs 30,000 to Rs 1,40,000. This is obviously robbery. Even considering the heavy costs of running private hospitals, it is not acceptable to charge huge differentials in fees for approved treatments. It is necessary to standardize the treatment charges at least according to the grading of the hospitals. It comes to mind that treatment rates were unified during the Covid period due to strict government intervention. Rate consolidation should be possible at least for non-complex treatments. The problem here is not that the law is not there, but that it is not enforced.

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