Health groups condemn ‘unethical pricing’ by pvt hospitals

Team Udayavani, Feb 23, 2018, 2:43 PM IST

New Delhi: Citing a recent study by the National Pharmaceutical Price Authority (NPAA), a few health groups today alleged that unethical practices of private hospitals are an outcome of the “regulatory vacuum” which allows them to monetise the vulnerability of patients.

“The NPAA study that analysed patient bills from four prominent private hospitals is the newest evidence of overcharging and exploitation of patients,” a joint statement released by the groups said. Gopendra Singh Parmar, father of Sourya Pratap who was treated for dengue at a private hospital in Gurgaon, claimed that more than 45 per cent of his bill of Rs 16 lakh was for medicines and consumables, on which the hospital appears to have taken huge margins.

“The government must frame rules to contain the rates charged by hospitals to make them affordable. Otherwise, families will continue to be forced to sell their assets, beg and borrow in their desperation to treat their loved ones, just as in my case,” he said. Non-scheduled drugs and diagnostic services constituted major components of charges billed to patients in the four private hospitals with margins as high as 1,192 per cent, the drug pricing regulator had said recently.

For consumables such as three-way stop cock, BI valve, GS-3040, the margins were even higher. The purchase price of the device for the hospital was Rs 5.77 and a 1,737 per cent margin on procurement price was charged, the NPPA had said. With regards to existing regulation to control the prices of essential medicines through the Drug Prices Control Order 2013, Mira Shiva, co-convener of the All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) pointed out several deficiencies.

“Hospitals are easily able to use this to their advantage by choosing to prescribe more expensive medicines… AIDAN has consistently advocated for expansion of the scope of the DPCO to cover all essential and life-saving medicines and to reinstate a method of cost-based pricing that provides reasonable profits to companies,” she said.

There is a grave problem of absence of regulation of the rates of diagnostics because of which, according to national surveys, diagnostics account for an increasing share of out-of-pocket expenditure in both in-patient and out-patient care, said, Dinesh Abrol, National Working Group on Patent Laws.

“The problem is being compounded in large private hospitals because they prey on patients by charging higher than market rates as well as adding on convenience fees,” he said. The health groups claimed that “unethical practices of private hospitals are a direct outcome of regulatory vacuum, which allows them to monetise the vulnerability of patients”.

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