‘Fixation of ₹72,000 per annum makes the entire insurance cover a farce’
The Madras High Court on Monday suggested that the income cap of ₹72,000 per annum for a family to get enrolled under the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme (CMCHIS) can be increased substantially so that more people can get enrolled under the scheme and benefit from the insurance cover provided to major ailments including COVID-19 treatment at empanelled private hospitals.
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the suggestion during the hearing of a public interest litigation petition filed by advocate D.I. Nathan complaining about exorbitant charges collected by some private hospitals from COVID-19 patients. Advocate N.G.R. Prasad insisted that the income threshold for getting enrolled under CMCHIS should be increased to ₹2 lakh per annum.
He told the court that the fixation of ₹72,000 per annum was less than the minimum wages fixed by law and it makes the entire insurance cover “a farce” since a majority of the families would become ineligible to get enrolled under the scheme. Despite finding force in his submissions, the judges said the court could not issue a positive direction on the issue since it was a matter of policy of the State.
“However, the appeal appears to be reasonable, and it is hoped that the minimum threshold level would be substantially increased to allow a larger number of families to avail of the benefit under the scheme,” the Bench observed. The court also impressed upon the need for the State government to keep a check on the charges collected by private hospitals for COVID-19 treatment.
“Since the second surge appears to have been brought under control or has somewhat abated in the light of the measures taken all round, the financial difficulties faced by ordinary citizens, particularly those who are not able to afford expensive treatment, should be looked into by the State. There is no doubt that every family would have gone beyond its means to ensure the best treatment for its members; but these families would have been drained of their savings or may have gone into debt.
“This is a matter which requires the attention of the State and the data has to be gathered before any effective policy decision is taken. It is hoped that such aspect will engage the attention of the State,” the judges wrote in their interim order after recording the submission of Advocate General R. Shunmugasundaram that hospital beds were now available in most government hospitals, and it had eased the pressure on private hospitals.
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