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‘Most pvt hospitals in Pimpri-Chinchwad overbilling Covid patients, not keeping proper records of patients & doctors’

In an interview with Manoj More, Joint Income Tax Commissioner Nelapatla Ashok Babu, who heads the panel, says regular inspection of hospital bills is acting as a deterrent against such practices.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Pune |
Updated: September 20, 2020 2:26:55 pm
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The government-appointed panel to check overbilling of Covid-19 patients by private hospitals in Pimpri-Chinchwad has found that most hospitals are violating government guidelines.

What is the role of your committee ?

Our committee has been tasked to curb and control the exorbitant bill amounts charged to Covid-19 patients and their families, and ensure that the extra amount is refunded. Our teams are personally visiting private hospitals and verifying the bills. We also take up complaints made by the relatives of the patients. The bill inspection is being done as per three government notifications issued on May 21, May 19 and August 31. The May 21 notification had a minor amendment to the May 19 notification.

How many hospitals have you found overbilling Covid-19 patients.?

Most of the hospitals in Pimpri-Chinchwad are indulging in the practice of overbilling… While patients were being charged for things they were not supposed to be, we also found that hospitals were not keeping proper records of patients, doctors, nurses and other medical staff. We have issued show-cause notices to hospitals which have indulged in excessive billing and violated government guidelines.

After the committee issues a show-cause notice, do the hospitals respond to it…?

The government notification says if any hospital is found violating the norms, their registeration can be cancelled and they should be penalised… an offence under Indian Penal Code can be lodged against them. Initially, we used to give them seven days’ time. Now, after consultation with the PCMC commissioner, we are giving them 48 hours to respond. We want to follow the natural principles of justice before we act against them.

How much excess amount has been refunded by private hospitals on your directions?

We have raised objections to the tune of around Rs 1.20 crore. So far, private hospitals have refunded Rs 37 lakh to patients. The patients have actually received the amount. Some of the hospitals have refunded or reduced the amount the moment they realised that the patient’s relatives had complainted to the committee.

What is included in the bills and what is excluded?

Family members of patients and even the patients themselves should know that hospitals can’t charge them for ECG, 2 DEcho, routine urine investigation, HIV test, creatine test etc… The hospital can charge Rs 800 for an antigen test and Rs 1,200 for a RT-PCR test. For a general ward, the per day charge is Rs 4,000, it is Rs 7,500 for an ICU bed without ventilator or oxygen bed, and Rs 9,000 for an ICU bed with ventilator and oxygen bed.

They can also charge the patients for intervention procedures, high-end drug, high-end investigation, CT scan and MRI procedures. As for the PPE kits, the charge is divided by the number of patients attended to by the concerned doctor. The rates are given in annexure C of the government notifications issued in May.

What is the penalty amount imposed on hospitals resorting to excessive billing ?

As per government norms, the penalty is Rs 5,000 or 5 per cent of the excess bill charged. The amount may be small but mere imposition of the penalty is enough to spoil their track record and their image.

Will the paltry fine amount act as a deterrent ?

Our inspection of bills is acting as a deterrent. Earlier, they refused to admit patients unless an advance payment was made. Now they don’t resort to such practices. They have to first admit the Covid-19 patient, they can’t delay the admission…Our frequent visits to hospitals are keeping them on their toes…

What action have you recommended so far ?

We have found that Desai Hospital in Bhosari was working without permission and was not keeping proper records as well. We have recommended to the Divisional Commissioner and PCMC commissioner that the hospital be sealed. Now, it is up to them to take action against the hospital. We also take similar action if hospitals are found violating norms.

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