29 Feb, 2024 09:51 AM

SC pulls centre for disparities in treatment costs between govt & private facilities

SC pulls centre for disparities in treatment costs between govt & private facilities

The Supreme Court of India has raised concerns about the significant disparities in medical treatment costs between government and private medical facilities. Criticizing the Centre for not enforcing the 14-year-old Clinical Establishment (Central Government) Rules, which mandate the establishment of standardized rates for medical procedures, the Court emphasized the need to align these rates with the varying living standards across regions.

These remarks came during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the non-profit organization Veterans Forum for Transparency in Public Life. The PIL urged the central government to implement a regulated fee structure for patients as per Rule 9 of the Clinical Establishment (Central Government) Rules, 2012. This rule requires all registered medical facilities to transparently display their service charges for patients in local languages and English, with prices falling within the range determined by the central government in consultation with state governments.

Despite the central government's efforts, including correspondence with state governments seeking cooperation, no responses were received. In response, the Supreme Court emphasized the government's obligation to provide affordable healthcare, a fundamental right of citizens. The Union health secretary has been directed to convene a meeting with state health secretaries to ensure the notification of standard rates within a month. The Court warned that if the Union government fails to find a solution, it will consider implementing standardized rates prescribed by the CGHS, as requested by the petitioner.

Tapan Singhel, Chairman of the General Insurance Council (GIC), expressed support for the Supreme Court's call for standard hospital rates. He emphasized the importance of offering quality healthcare at reasonable rates, noting initiatives like "Cashless Everywhere" launched by the insurance industry to streamline processes for customers.

Speaking anonymously, a GIC member disclosed that discussions with providers, including hospital associations, led to the "cashless everywhere" initiative. However, some hospitals have raised concerns about the initiative. The member highlighted the need for a hospital regulator to advocate for customer interests, ensuring treatment quality, cashless facilities, and patient convenience. The Department of Financial Services (DFS) has urged collaboration between the National Health Authority (NHA), insurers, and DFS to explore establishing such a regulator to promote affordable healthcare.

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