Private hospitals push govt. to relax cap on treatment rates

Hospitals say State should take over pricing of a certain number of beds, leave rest to them; decision likely today

Private hospitals have been pushing the Maharashtra government to relax its April 30 order that capped the cost of medical treatment during the ongoing pandemic.

While the State has remained firm so far, a decision is likely to be announced by Tuesday following a series of meetings by representatives of private hospitals with the government. Municipal Commissioner I.S. Chahal, in the meantime, held a meeting with major private hospitals in Mumbai on Monday since the State has proposed taking over all private hospital beds in the city.

As regards the rates, private hospitals’ demand was under consideration, said Dr. Sudhakar Shinde, CEO of the State Health Assurance Society. “They have suggested that the government take over the pricing of a certain number of beds, while some beds should be left for them to decide the costs,” he said.

In the April 30 notification, the State had invoked the Epidemic Diseases Act, Disaster Management Act, Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, Mumbai Nursing Homes Registration Act and the Bombay Public Trusts Act to get private hospitals to comply with the reduced rate of treatment packages.

The notification mandated private hospitals to charge the lowest rates as per their pacts with insurance companies and provided a detailed list of rates for hospitals that do not have tie-ups with insurance companies. The State had issued the notification after receiving testimonies of patients suffering from COVID-19 as well as other diseases who were handed hefty hospitals bills, some charging up to ₹1 lakh a day. Despite the notification, though, many hospitals continued to charge their own rates.

Members of the Association of Hospitals (AOH), a group of 54 private hospitals in the city, have been in the forefront of negotiations with the government. The AOH consists of top hospitals like Jaslok, Breach Candy, P.D. Hinduja, Bombay, Nanavati, Hiranandani, Lilavati, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani and H.N. Reliance Foundation, among others.

Chief executive officer of Breach Candy Hospital, N. Santhanam, who is the chairman of AOH, said they expect the government to come out with a comprehensive notification. “There is a lot of speculation. We will have to wait till the government comes out with the final document in a day or two,” he said.

Meanwhile, the State government has decided to take over 80% of the general beds and all ICU beds in private hospitals in Mumbai in its fight against COVID-19. However, private hospitals had expressed reservations about the move, fearing it would hamper the treatment of non-COVID-19 patients.

At the meeting with the municipal commissioner, the hospital managements were told the beds are not only for COVID-19 patients but also for others. The move will bring about effective bed management, the BMC said.

Several patients have died in Mumbai after they did not get beds in time. There has been a growing demand to create a dashboard of all hospital beds, which will be accessible to citizens.

(With inputs from Tanvi Deshpande)

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