“Private hospitals functioning in regulatory vacuum”

Patients and health groups condemn excessive and unethical pricing by private hospitals, stress need for regulation of healthcare charges

GN Bureau | February 22, 2018


#Health   #Medical Bills   #Private Hosptial   #Fortis  
Illustration: Ashish Asthana
Illustration: Ashish Asthana

Patients and health groups came together in Delhi to voice concerns over the unethical practices of private hospitals, which they say are a direct outcome of the regulatory vacuum, allowing them to monetize the vulnerability of patients. The study of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) that analysed patient bills from four prominent private hospitals is the newest evidence of overcharging and exploitation of patients, said panelists at a press conference organised by All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) on Thursday.

Gopendra Singh Parmar, father of late Sourya Pratap who was treated for dengue at Medanta - the Medicity, Gurgaon shared that more than 45% of his bill of Rs.16 lakhs was for medicines and consumables on which the hospital appears to have taken huge margins. Just lab charges accounted for another 9.5% of the bill. “The Government must frame rules to contain the rates charged by hospitals to make them affordable. Otherwise families will continue to be forced to sell their assets, beg and borrow in their desperation to treat loved ones, just as in my case,” he said.

READ: Heartbreaking stories of backbreaking medical bills


With regards to existing regulation to control the prices of essential medicines through the Drug Prices Control Order (DPCO) 2013, Dr Mira Shiva, co-convenor of the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) pointed out several deficiencies. “The NPPA findings that non-scheduled medicines make up around 25% of the combined bill costs is hardly surprising given that almost 90% of the pharmaceutical market remains outside price control. Hospitals are easily able to use this to their advantage by choosing to prescribe more expensive medicines. In its report, the NPPA has acknowledged that the market-based formula for fixing ceiling prices leaves room for huge trade margins," Shiva said.

The central flaw of the DPCO, 2013, she said, is the deeply flawed market-based pricing mechanism that legitimizes profiteering and high prices. AIDAN has consistently advocated for expansion of the scope of the DPCO to cover all essential and life-saving medicines and to reinstate a method of cost-based pricing that provides reasonable profits to companies, she said.

“The report has observed that a large share of the total costs comes from in-house diagnostic services. There is a grave problem of absence of regulation of the rates of diagnostics because of which, according to national surveys, diagnostics account for an increasing share of out-of-pocket expenditure in both in-patient and out-patient care. The problem is being compounded in large private hospitals because they prey on patients by charging higher than market rates as well as adding on convenience fees,” remarked Dr Dinesh Abrol, national working group on patent laws.

“Moreover, the testing and diagnostics industry is fuelled through a model of cut practice, commissions and irrational, unnecessary prescription. Exploitation is aggravated and enabled by healthcare conglomerates formed by integrating pharmacy, diagnostic centre and hospital businesses. The Government should strengthen free diagnostics schemes, put in place national regulated prices and a system of prescription audit for diagnostics. In parallel, it should break the emerging monopolies of the conglomerates which contribute to driving up costs of healthcare,” Abrol continued.

Prasanna Saligram, Janaarogya Andolana Karnataka reiterated the consequences of absence of regulation as a result of which “healthcare providers are free to practice what is termed “supplier induced demand” and indulge in over medicalization since there is an inherent information asymmetry between the provider and the patient.”

Sulakshana Nandi, joint national convenor, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, highlighted the blatant violation of patients’ rights. “In case of both private insurance and Government sponsored health insurance schemes like RSBY that are supposed to be ‘cashless’, private hospitals regularly extract illegal payments from patients in order to make profits. This expenditure is impoverishing for many families”, she said. “Patients are commonly exploited in less obvious ways. Hospitals may have protocols that ban patients from buying medicines and consumables from outside the hospital pharmacy, refuse to display their rates or refuse to provide detailed bills” she continued.

“The Central Government has the policy space to take the lead in regulating healthcare charges and should put in place an institutional mechanism, backed by necessary legislation, to oversee the price regulation of all aspects of healthcare and all over India in a systematic manner to make them affordable” said Malini Aisola of AIDAN.

“I appreciate the NPPA conducting such a detailed and thorough analysis and identifying the systematic loot process of private hospitals. I expect the Government to take cognizance of the NPPA findings and create new policy and regulations that will deter the healthcare mafia from fleecing patients and can prevent criminal collusion between pharmaceutical companies and hospitals/doctors. It is high time that the Government takes severe action against those found guilty and punishes them,” said Jayant Singh, whose daughter late Adya Singh was admitted to Fortis hospital, Gurgaon and charged in excess of Rs16 lakhs.

 

Comments

 

Other News

When Jaitley asked me to guess his age...

Sometime in 1999, I took Arun Jaitley out for meal for the column, “Lunch with Business Standard”. As is his wont, he chose his own place for lunch. It was at the Chambers at the Taj Mansingh hotel, an exclusive domain of the high and the mighty Delhi. As we sat down for the meal

Thus ends the Chidamba-Run!

The arrest of Palaniappan Chidambaram, former union minister of home & finance, by the CBI, albeit after his much dramatic disappearance and reappearance, has brought an end to his long run from the arms of law. As a finance minister, being at the other end of the law, the former ministe

What Imran’s rant against RSS tells us about Modi’s Kashmir policy

An unintended consequence of the inversion of Article 370 and the division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories is the curious revival of Pakistan’s interest in Indian history and sociology. For the first time in decades, a Pakistan prime minister made the Rasht

On a Personal note with actor Neeraj Kabi

Neeraj Kabi, a critically acclaimed self-taught actor, theatre director, and acting teacher, has worked in Odiya, Hindi and international cinema, theatre, television and web series. In 2014 he was honoured with the best actor award at the 4th Sakhalin International Film Festival for his role in the fil

Talking to Trump, Modi hits out at Imran’s anti-India rhetoric

Prime minister Narendra Modi has told US president Donald Trump that Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s “incitement to anti-India violence” was not good for peace in south Asia. Modi and Trump had a telephonic conversation – their first since the Aug 5 move to chang

Paediatricians call for junking unhealthy food

As children are consuming more and more fast foods and sweetened beverages are becoming, leading to obesity and related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) has come out with guidelines on such substances. The dietary guidelines under its nutrition chapter



Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter