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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Covid patients overcharged in private hospitals, finds state-wide survey

Seema Bhagwat and her husband have their own medical store in Nashik and are aware of how medicines with high margins were being prescribed by hospitals despite side effects.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
September 29, 2021 10:53:23 pm
Of the total patients (2,579) in the survey, 1,295 had died, including 1,059 women who had lost their husbands to Covid-19. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty)

Asama Raje’s husband was admitted to a private hospital of Niphad in Nashik district after tested positive for Covid. The oxygen supply there was not enough so he was shifted to two other hospitals. But after a fortnight, he died during treatment. Asama incurred a cost of Rs 17 lakh and had to sell her family gold. Now, she has demanded an inquiry into why she was overcharged by the private hospitals.

Seema Bhagwat and her husband have their own medical store in Nashik and are aware of how medicines with high margins were being prescribed by hospitals despite side effects. Seema’s husband died 38 days after contracting Covid-19. She had to struggle to pay the hospital bill of Rs 17 lakh and rues the compensation amount of Rs 50,000 that was promised by the Centre.

The stories of Seema and Aasma were among many that were shared at a virtual conference, which presented the findings of a new survey conducted by Jan Arogya Abhiyan and Corona Ekal Mahila Punarvasan Samiti. The survey found that many private hospitals allegedly flouted the state government’s order on capping treatment expenses and charged Covid patients much beyond the regulated rates.

While responding to complaints of overcharging for Covid treatment, the Maharashtra government in May 2020 had issued orders for rate capping of such treatment on 80 per cent beds in private hospitals, and from June 1, 2021, the rates were further reduced for Category B and C areas. The state-wide survey, which was conducted in September 2021, collected data from families of 2,579 patients who had undergone treatment for Covid-19 in various hospitals and had complained of excessive bills.

“These cases have been drawn from 205 talukas in 34 districts across the state, including Nashik, Ahmednagar, Parbhani, Pune, Solapur, Yavatmal, Nagpur, Kolhapur, Satara, Aurangabad, Beed and Latur,” said Dr Abhay Shukla, public health expert and part of the teams that conducted the survey. “We have analysed each case and 1,954 patients (75 per cent of total cases) have been overcharged by private hospitals, compared to official rates that should have been charged as per regulations,” Shukla told The Indian Express.

Of the total patients (2,579) in the survey, 1,295 had died, including 1,059 women who had lost their husbands to Covid-19.

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Compared to government regulations for cost of treatment of ICU patients at maximum rates of Rs 7,500 per day, patients in the study said they paid much higher rates. This is nearly three times higher than the maximum official rates for ICU care in Category Actvities, said Heramb Kulkarni of Corona Ekal Mahila Punarvasan Samiti.

Some families had to pay a bill of Rs 15 lakh to Rs 38 lakh, which is in the range of Rs 15,000 to Rs 1 lakh per day. An average excess amount of Rs 1.55 lakh per patient was charged by private hospitals. Of the total 1,059 women who lost their husbands to Covid in this survey, 73 per cent (773) were overcharged. Among these, 212 women paid an excess amount of more than Rs 2 lakh as compared to charges under government regulations. It amounts to excess of Rs 1.72 lakh per woman, said Kajal Jain of Jan Arogya Abhiyan.

In addition to the main cost of the hospital, a large amount was spent on Remdesivir and other drugs. In private hospitals, average per patient expenses of Rs 90,000 were incurred on medicines, which added to the already large financial burden on families.

The two organisations have demanded that the state government should trace all families of Covid-19 patients who complaints about unjustified charging by private hospitals, audit their bills and ensure overcharged amouont is refunded within a month. The state government should take immediate action against all such private hospitals that have repeatedly violated state government orders regarding rate capping for Covid care, Kulkarni said. They have also demanded the appointment of a special commission to expedite the search operation process for overcharging cases and oversee the audits of cases in different districts.

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