Monday, June 5, 2023

COVID treatment: SC asks Centre to get insurance cos to pay up quickly

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New Delhi: A crucial case about imposing a price cap for COVID treatments in private hospitals has come up before the Supreme Court. While the court has set a further hearing in two weeks, it observed during arguments that insurance companies must be made to pay hospital dues promptly. The court has asked if the Centre can ensure this.

A bench comprising the Chief Justice S. A. Bobde and Justices A. S. Bopanna & V. Ramasubramanian was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Sachin Jain, who said private hospitals that have been given land free of cost should not charge for Covid-19 treatment. 

COVID treatment prices in private hospitals have been shooting through the roof in recent times and even those with insurance find that their policy ceilings aren’t allowing hospitalisation.

Justice S A Bobde .Photo. J.S. Studio
Chief Justice S. A. Bobde

The government suggested that this was an issue that could be decided by individual state governments.

As the court suggested that there could be cheaper treatments in smaller towns, the counsel for private hospitals argues against any price cap for patients with insurance and co-morbidity.

The Supreme Court then said that insurance companies cannot keep their hands off the issue during this pandemic and urged the government to act. The court suggested that there can be a formula for cheaper treatments in smaller towns.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, arguing for the private hospitals, said: “As of yesterday, in Delhi alone, out of 15,000 beds in government hospitals, 12000 were empty. Concern about profiteering would be understandable if there was a rush and people were being forced into private commercial hospitals. How do you bill patients when a cancer patient also contacts Covid-19? What about cases of co-morbidity?”

He said that a cap on pricing of COVID treatment will grievously hurt private hospitals.

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Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, also for private hospitals, said: “People with insurance can’t be allowed price caps. Price cap should not be made applicable in cases of co-morbidity.”

The case was adjourned for two weeks.

-India Legal Bureau

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