too costly

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Mar 2018 11:08:10

THE honourable Supreme Court has expressed a grave national concern when it asked the Government to step in to reduce what it called “exorbitant” cost of medical treatment in the country. The people are not in a position to pay for their medical treatment because it involved a “huge cost”, and that necessitates the Government to “do something”, the honourable Supreme Court has insisted. We only hope that the Government will take this advisory of the Supreme Court in complete seriousness and “do something” so that the common people of India get some relief from the exceptionally high pricing of medical treatment.

The pharmaceutical industry might offer many explanations and justifications for the high prices involved in treatment. The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, too, would have its own assessment of the situation. Yet, it is common knowledge that the difference between the manufacturing cost, drug-procurement price, and the ultimate the patient has to end up paying is too huge to have any justification. The entire picture demonstrates how common people are being exploited and looted by an industry and its service-providers. There may be some areas where costs are genuinely high, and nothing can be done about those. But in most areas, what is witnessed is nothing but rampant and shameless profiteering -- at the cost of ailing population. Yet dirtier colour in the picture is that the so-called noble profession has been tarnished beyond recognition.

In the past some time, the Government has taken certain steps to cut the prices down to sensible levels. To certain extent, those efforts have succeeded, too. Yet, the overall picture is unchanged. That is the reason why the honourable Supreme Court has insisted that the Government did something to control the prices of medical treatment.

There are two sides of the picture. One involves treatment in hospitals run by the Government or its agencies, and the other involves private hospitals. In the hospitals in the Government category, prices are reasonable and the patients are happy about the situation. In private hospitals, costs are exorbitantly high, often scaring even well-to-do patients. This difference makes it mandatory for the Government to think of appropriate reasons of the gap and steps to reduce the costs in private sector hospitals. This will have to be done with an iron hand so that shameless profiteering in corporate hospitals is curbed ruthlessly.

There are also a lot of planned efforts to fudge the details. In the past some years, the quality of services in the Government-run hospitals is reported to have gone down. There is a section of knowledgeable sources that believes that this drop in quality was almost deliberate in order to push the people towards private hospitals, something visible in many other sectors as well. If there is even a grain of truth in this, then we know who rules the roost in national medicare segment.

The Government will have to do something in this area. It will have to come down with a heavy hand to ensure that the pharmaceutical and medicare industries conduct themselves more sensibly and do not indulge in rampant and shameless profiteering. There are many dark areas in India’s medicare segment. All those need to be sorted out immediately. Yet, all the emerging issues relate only to one point -- moral integrity. It is in this area that the Government will have to take strict and no-nonsense action. One industry cannot be allowed to indulge in the loot of ailing people of the nation’s population.

The direction of Supreme Court involves all these dimensions. This is one concern about which there could be no compromise of any kind. This is one area that calls for action in the category of worship.