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In Panchkula: Unnecessary tests to meds charged above MRP, how pvt hospitals tricked Covid patients into paying more

The committee, which was formed to revisit several 'inflated' bills for Covid treatment at private hospitals of the districts, was formed on the recommendation of Haryana Speaker and local MLA Gian Chand Gupta.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula |
July 16, 2021 5:24:58 am
Covid hospitalisationConsumables and medicines administered to the patients, too, were charged way above the actual MRP. (Representational)

Private hospitals in Panchkula, treating Covid patients, suggested repeated and unnecessary laboratory investigations and charged at least three to four times over the MRP for medicines and consumables, besides also making unneeded additions to the treatment, like physiotherapy, a report prepared by a member of the district bill committee mentions.

The committee, which was formed to revisit several ‘inflated’ bills for Covid treatment at private hospitals of the districts, was formed on the recommendation of Haryana Speaker and local MLA Gian Chand Gupta.

BB Singhal, a member of the committee who prepared the report with his observations, said, “It was astonishing to observe how patients have been charged sky-high rates by all departments in violation of every norm set by the state government. All medical ethics were ignored at the time of a pandemic.”

Singhal now has submitted a copy of his observations to both the local MLA Gian Chand Gupta, who spearheaded the investigations, and to Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij.

As per him, several unnecessary investigations — including repeated chest X-rays, and tests like DDIMER, IL6, PROCALCITONIN — were suggested and charged from patients at prices much higher than the market rate or those that were fixed by the state.

The report submitted observes that apart from charging for the designated bed a patient used, they were also billed additionally on account of ventilators, alpha bed, oxygen, doctor’s visit, physiotherapist, dietician, nursing charges, et al. Consumables and medicines administered to the patients, too, were charged way above the actual MRP.

“Many times the price charged would be 3-4 times the actual cost of the medicine. The hospitals mostly suggested drugs of certain brands which had a higher MRP, even though several other good alternatives of the same drug at a much cheaper price were available in the market,” said Singhal.

The patients, he further said, had several times been charged for two pulse oximeters even when they were in the ICU. In some cases, the patients had been charged for 9-10 injections of Remdesvir, whereas the normal protocol is the administration of six injection for a patient.

Commenting on the overall bills made, Singhal said, “I could see in the bills that all private hospitals had decided to charge some fixed amount from the patient per day, irrespective of the severity of the disease. Some hospitals were charging Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 per day, while others charged Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 a day.”

Further, especially in cases of patients getting reimbursement from insurance companies or government departments or other agencies, the bills were found to be massively inflated, mostly cause no one would question it,” he said, adding, “This extra cost, ultimately, has to be borne by taxpayers only.”

Submitting this representation, Singhal has asked the government to issue comprehensive guidelines for private hospitals/nursing homes about charges in all departments — including consultations, diagnostics, medicine — that can be levied. “Even those patients getting reimbursements from insurance companies, government department or other agencies, should not be charged extra.”

Singhal has also requested that the capping of hospital rates be done zone-wise in Haryana, and the patients are given the option to purchase medicines from the open market at competitive prices. For the reimbursed medical bills, a treatment chart of the doctor has to be made compulsory, along with the hospital bill, for submission to the respective department/agency for further transparency.

Haryana had in June last year, issued an order capping the daily package rates for Covid-19 treatment in private hospitals between Rs8000- Rs18,000, in a move aimed to reduce treatment costs, after allegations from across the state against private hospitals charging high amounts for Covid treatment had surfaced.

An investigation into the inflated hospital bills by the committee, which began in May this year, uncovered high levels of overcharging at private hospitals with bills of Covid patients sometimes being inflated by as much as 300 per cent. At least three private hospitals of Panchkula later had to return almost Rs 21 lakh to Covid patients that they had charged in excess.

Among the three health hubs that returned the money, Paras Hospital made a total refund of Rs 12.91 lakh to 13 patients or their family members, with Alchemist Hospital and Wings Hospital refunding Rs 6.39 lakh and Rs 1.77 lakh to five and three patients or their family, respectively.

Wings hospital had also been accused of submitting forged bills —with amounts showing prices lower than what had been charged from the families of patients — to the monitoring committee. “Forged bills were submitted in three cases. After we were alerted about the same by kins of patients, we took the matter up with the hospital who have now refunded the actual excess, as per real bills,” said Singhal.

No legal action has been taken against any of the private hospitals in Panchkula.

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