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Plea seeks formation of committee to scrutinize exorbitant charges from Covid patients & their families: SC issues notice

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New Delhi, Oct 8 (ILNS) The Supreme Court issued a notice in a plea seeking the formation of a committee to scrutinize and audit the medical bills and expenses overcharged from Covid-19 patients and families.

A Supreme Court bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice BV Nagarathna while issuing notice to the centre observed that overcharging by the private hospitals during the pandemic needs serious attention. It was further observed that during the pandemic there were overcharging complaints by hapless patients and their family members.

The bench also observed that there were certain instances where local bodies have taken cognizance against the hospitals that are overcharging. However, an action on a central level needs to be taken as a priority.

The petition states that there are no uniform policies and guidelines to date regarding the refund of exorbitant amounts overcharged from patients either at the state level or at the central level and covid-19 patients and their families are left at the mercy of private hospitals. The private hospitals have been exploiting the global pandemic and the central government has closed its eyes towards the suffering of its people despite that there are no uniform guidelines regarding reimbursements from health insurance companies also and they have been paying exorbitant bills to private hospitals thereby exhausting the health insurance limits of covid-19 patients.  

The petition elaborates on many complaints of overcharging by Hospitals. 5 PILs were filed before Uttarakhand High Court raising the same issue, UT of Chandigarh has received many complaints despite several measures taken by the government to cap the hospitals’ bills for COVID patients. The list covers the states of Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi etc.

The petition also states several instances where the refund was made, Gautam Budh Nagar district administration directed refunds of Rs. 5 lakhs to 4 patients, Pune Municipal Council health department has issued notices to 172 private hospitals for overcharging and refunded 22 Lakhs. Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation audited bills issued by private hospitals asked 76 hospitals to refund a total amount of 6.44 crores which was overcharged from COVID-19 patients. The state of Telangana provided a cap on hospital overcharging and the High Court directed to refund more than 3 crores to COVID patients.

The petition, apart from its main prayer of auditing of private hospitals, seeks direction to Central Government, State Government and UTs to direct the private hospitals to refund overcharged amounts to COVID patients and if the patient is deceased, the said amount be refunded to their family members. The petition also seeks guidelines for treatment charges of COVID-19 patients.

The petition is filed by Advocate on Record (AoR) Krishna Ballabh Thakur./ILNS/SNG/IL/

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