How private hospitals are fleecing COVID-19 patients

Maximum of ₹18,000 per day would be borne by insurance companies, whereas ICU critical treatment costs charged by private hospitals in major cities are anywhere between ₹50,000 to ₹1,00,000 a day

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V Venkateswara Rao

It is easier to recover from COVID-19 than from the blow that the hospital bill inflicts on you.

“When we admitted our uncle at this leading corporate hospital in Banjara Hills, we were offered a 20-day package costing Rs 21 lakh based on the assumption that he might need ventilator support,” a website (thefederal.com) quoted Prashant Roopi, a senior executive at a private bank in

According to an order issued by special chief secretary (medical and health) of Telangana, A Santhi Kumari, the cost of the package to be charged by the private hospitals cannot exceed Rs 4,000 per day in normal wards (including isolation), Rs 7,500 in Intensive Care Units (ICU) without ventilator and Rs 9,000 with ventilator support. The package includes monitoring of patient and investigations like Complete Blood Culture (CBC), urine routine, anti-HIV, ultrasound, ECG, 2D Echo and X-ray, apart from drugs, consultations, bed charges, meals, and procedures like urinary tract catheterisation.

However, the hospitals can charge additionally for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), interventional procedures like bronchoscopy, biopsy, and pleural tapping, administration of high-end drugs, and high-end investigations like CT-Scan, MRI and PET scan. Private hospitals in Hyderabad want the Telangana government to review the cap on treatment costs.

The Telangana government may have set a price cap on the treatment for COVID-19 in private hospitals, but with the non-coverage of basic consumables like PPE kits, ICU drugs, oxygen cylinders, and lab work, the cost is still too high for the common man. Many were shocked after coming to know that the 'hidden costs' would come up to Rs 50,000 to Rs 80,000 per day.

As per a story published on July 14 by The New Indian Express, the family of a COVID-19 suspect were in for a shock when Bengaluru's Columbia Asia Hospital quoted an estimated bill of Rs 9.09 lakh for 10 days in ICU with ventilator. The 67-year-old man awaiting a COVID test result went to this hospital as he was gasping for breath. On hearing the estimated bill, the family did not admit him. The breakup of the bill includes Rs 1.40 lakh for ventilator charges, Rs 3 lakh for medicines, medical supplies and consumables, Rs 2 lakh for laboratory investigations, Rs 75,000 for room rent, Rs 75,000 professional fee, Rs 58,500 for nursing charges, Rs 35,000 for radiology investigations and physiotherapy, Rs 25,000 for equipment and surgical items. The bill said this is only an estimated amount and the actual costs could be higher in the event of complications, an unanticipated extension of stay and comorbid conditions.

It seems that the Bengaluru hospital has just ignored the Karnataka government's June 23 order capping the treatment costs. The ceiling price for COVID-19 treatment for patients directly admitted by private health providers making cash payment (non-insurance) is Rs 10,000 for general ward, Rs 12,000 for high-dependency unit, Rs 15,000 for isolation ICU without ventilator and Rs 25,000 for isolation ICU with ventilator.

On 20 June, the Delhi government issued an order capping prices for COVID-19 treatment in private hospitals in Delhi. According to the order, the prices for all National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers-accredited hospitals were to be capped at Rs 10,000, Rs 15,000, and Rs 18,000 for isolation beds, ICU beds without ventilators and ICUs with ventilators support respectively. Similarly, for all non-NABH accredited hospitals, the prices were Rs 8,000, Rs 13,000, and Rs 15,000 respectively. The order clarified further: "The rates for private hospitals beds would be all inclusive as a package. This will include, but not limited to: bed, food and other amenities, monitoring, nursing care, doctors' visits/ consults, investigations including imaging, treatment as per the national protocol for COVID-19 care and standard care for co-morbidities, oxygen, blood transfusion, etc.” Despite the government order, private hospitals in Delhi overcharge patients,

As per a story published by ThePrint, the cost of just one day, the first day treatment at the privately-run Max Hospital in Saket, for the 57-year-old Ramzan Ali had grossed close to Rs 2 lakh. “The hospital has given me an estimate of Rs 1.73 lakh for just a day’s stay. How are we supposed to pay this kind of money? We have already paid Rs 50,000 at the time of admission,” said Rizwan Ali, son of Ramzan Ali, on July 28. His father was admitted on July 27.

Thanks to the lawmakers in the US, Coronavirus tests are free for all Americans. But they could still face high medical bills. Those Americans who are hospitalised with Coronavirus can expect to pay anywhere between $42,486 and $74,310 if they are uninsured or if they receive care that’s deemed out-of-network by their insurance company, according to recent analysis by the independent non-profit organization
FAIR Health.

On April 13,the Supreme Court of India ruled free tests in private labs only for those people covered by the government’s flagship healthcare programme, Ayushman Bharat. Private labs, the court clarified, could continue to charge for COVID-19 tests from other individuals, not exceeding Rs 4,500 per test. The hospitalisation costs being charged by the private hospitals in India compete with those being charged in the US.

The General Insurance Council (GI Council) of India has prepared a rate chart for reimbursement of COVID-19 treatment costs, taking into account rates published by various state governments and also after discussions with health claims experts. These rates will be applicable to both cashless and reimbursement COVID-19 claims where any Government Authority has not published standard charges for COVID-19 treatment. Wherever COVID-19 treatment charges have been published by any Government Authority, those charges shall be applicable to insurance claims with member companies.

How private hospitals are fleecing COVID-19 patients

A maximum of Rs 18,000 per day for ICU critical treatment with ventilator may be borne by the insurance companies, whereas ICU critical treatment costs being charged by private hospitals in major cities are anywhere between Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,00,000 per day. This leaves a huge amount to be borne by the patients from their own resources, which even the middle-class families dread. Most Indian families in cities generally have a insurance cover of Rs 3 to 5 lakh per family, whereas the private hospitals are billing anywhere between Rs 10 to 20 lakh for a 14 day or so ICU treatment.
Coronavirus is nightmarish not only on the health front, but also on the wealth front.

(V Venkateswara Rao is a retired corporate professional and a freelance writer)

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