Source: The Hitavada      Date: 25 Feb 2018 10:33:38

The ‘healthcare for all’ scheme floated by the government is a very welcome step. How it is going to be implemented is a moot question. But when it comes into effect, hopefully the beneficiaries would be many. Especially the ones from the middle income and the lower income groups. But till then, the common man continues to suffer, at the hands of private hospitals. Recently a couple of cases created quite a furore when it was brought to light the exorbitant amount that was charged for rendering medical assistance to patients. Aadya, while being treated at Fortis, died in September and Sourya Pratap in December at Medanta. In both the cases, the hospital handed over a bill amounting to Rs 16 lakh to the families who had no means of paying it.

As the media quickly started pointing fingers at the corporate hospitals and their gross malpractices, the authorities went into an overdrive of devising methods to curb this menace. Measures were laid down to curb the unethical pricing to protect the common man from the tentacles of the big hospitals. But they do not seem to be working as has been highlighted by the recent report published by National Pharmaceutical Price Authority (NPPA). Overcharging and exploitation by big hospitals of poor patients continues, and there is no stopping them from charging hefty sums for medicines and other items. To cite an example of gross overcharging, the hospital, in Aadya’s case, procured a valve that was brought by them for Rs 5.77 and billed it to her for Rs. 106. The profit margin, an unimaginable 1,737 percent. This is a regular practice among the corporate hospitals.

Despite notifications issued by regulatory authorities, it is surprising that the patients are not given a choice to buy medicines from outside. On the contrary, the hospitals themselves do not prescribe scheduled drugs whose prices have been fixed by the government, thus forcing the patients pay exorbitant amounts to the hospitals. The survey has also brought to light the unholy nexus between the hospitals and the drug companies- both working hand in glove to loot the patients by overpricing the medicines and medical gear. The need of the hour, as prescribed by the All India Drug Action Network, is to re-establish a foolproof method of cost-based pricing that provides a rational profit to companies and is not too harsh on the pocket of the consumer.