The state government has further slashed rates for Covid-19 tests. While samples collected at home for tests will cost Rs 2,000 from Monday, one would have to shell out Rs 1,200 for samples taken directly at the laboratory for testing purposes.
For home swab collection to testing, a private laboratory now cannot charge beyond Rs 2,000 for real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The earlier rate fixed by the government was Rs 2,500.
If a laboratory collects samples from a hospital, a Covid care centre or from a drive-through kiosk, the rate for the test has been capped at Rs 1,600 – down from Rs 2,200. For samples provided directly at the laboratory, the rate has been capped at Rs 1,200, reduced from the earlier Rs 1,900.
The dip in rates comes after an overall reduction in cost of viral transport medium used to store swab samples and reduction in consumable and personal protective equipment worn by technicians who collect samples. Officials said mass production has made it possible to further reduce rates and allow private labs to profit by increased capacity.
Making tests affordable
With increase in the number of manufacturers of testing kits, the government hopes to bring rates further down to make it affordable and allow rampant testing. Maharashtra remains one of the few states that has aggressively brought down rates for testing and treatment in the private sector. Private labs are not very happy with the price cap. With high GST a hindrance, the new rates will further eat into their profit margins.
Government officials said they have asked private laboratories to test according to their full capacity, and for 24 hours.
Dr A Velumani, founder of Thyrocare, said, “With these new rates, we do not have a margin for profit left.” Velumani, however, refused to comment on whether the state had reached out to private labs before coming up with the order. Sushant Kinra, chief operating officer of Suburban Diagnostics, said they were not aware that rates would be slashed to such an extent but support the government. “We have been requesting for a GST concession on imports. We are still waiting for the central government to respond. In some cases, GST is 18 per cent,” he added.
State officials said they have forwarded the concerns about GST to the Union government.
The officials added that a few labs were taken on board to discuss cost of testing as well as staff salary before the fresh rates were fixed. A further dip in prices is expected again in a month, said an official.
“The ICMR is buying testing kits for Rs 400. There are many players in manufacturing and the prices have come down,” said Dr Sudhakar Shinde, who heads the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana. He added that the state further plans to slash rates for masks and sanitisers.
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