THE STATE government is scheduled to file a special leave petition in the Supreme Court next week against the Bombay High Court order that quashed notification on price capping for non-Covid procedures during the pandemic. On November 10, the state government approved an appeal to obtain a stay on the High Court order, at the earliest. An advocate representing the state government said the appeal is in process and will be registered by next week in the apex court.
“It is important to cap prices for treatment in both Covid and non-Covid categories; otherwise patients will be charged exorbitantly,” a state health official told The Indian Express.
On October 23, the Nagpur bench of the HC had upheld the contention of private hospitals against the state government’s notification to regulate treatment fee of non-Covid patients in 20 per cent beds reserved for them. The court had opined that the state government is not competent in issuing such price caps. The bench had observed that “neither the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, nor the Maharashtra Covid-19 Regulations, 2020, empower the state government to issue impugned directions in notifications”.
The court also observed that the petitioner’s fundamental right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business was violated by this notification.
In two notifications on April 30 and May 21, the state government had reserved 80 per cent beds in all private hospitals, and capped rates of various surgical procedures. For instance, an angiography was capped at Rs 12,000, normal delivery at Rs 75,000, a valve replacement at Rs 3.23 lakh, a cataract surgery at Rs 25,000, and so on. Pacemaker, PPE, intraocular lenses, stents, catheter, balloon, medical implants, and consumables could not be charged more than 10 per cent mark-up on net procurement cost.
On August 31, the state government issued a third notification extending the existing notification and also capped charges of oxygen use by patients. The notification is valid till the end of November.
The petitioner, a private doctor, raised an objection before the Nagpur bench. The Indian Medical Association also said price cap for non-Covid procedures was unreasonable, drawing the example of Gujarat where price cap introduced during the pandemic is set at higher rates to allow a margin of profit for private hospitals.
Officials said they were hopeful of getting a stay on the HC order and continue with the price cap. The state government is also planning to continue reservation of some beds in private hospitals.
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