Kerala govt caps Covid treatment cost in private hospitals, violators to be fined

Covid Hospitals
The order came following strict observations made by the Kerala High Court recently against exorbitant bills charged by some private hospitals from Covid patients. Image for representation only

In the wake of innumerable complaints of overcharging, the Kerala government has fixed the COVID-19 treatment rates for private hospitals. The new rates will include the charges for almost all treatment components, right from registration and doctors' charges to oxygen cylinders and post-discharge diagnostic tests. 

The general ward rate would be Rs 2,645 a day. For NABH-accredited hospitals it would be Rs 2910. A bed in a general ward in a high dependency unit (HDU) should not cost more than Rs 3,795 a day; in an NABH-accredited hospital, the daily charge can go up to Rs Rs 4,175.

If admitted in the ICU, the rate would be Rs 7,800 a day at the most; in an NABH-accredited hospital, it can go up to Rs Rs 8,580 a day. If ventilator support is also given in the ICU, the maximum a patient could be charged is Rs 13,800 a day; the same in an NABH-accredited hospital would be Rs 15,180 a day.

(Find the full list of rates here.)

Any imposition above the newly prescribed rates would be penalised at 10 times the extra cost extracted from the patient. 

These new charges were fixed in an order issued by the Health and Family Welfare Department on Monday. The order stated that these new charges would include almost all treatment charges, except high-end investigations like CT chest and HRCT chest, PPE kits and costly medications like remdesivir and tocilizumab. But these exceptions, the order states, should not exceed the MRP of these drugs and consumables and the declared hospital rates for high-end investigations.

Here are the charges that will be included in the new charges fixed by the government: registration charges, bed charges, nursing charges, charges of surgeons, anaesthetists, medical practitioners and consultants, anaesthesia, blood transfusion, oxygen, medicines and drugs, pathology and radiology tests including radiological imaging and diagnostic tests such as X-ray, USG, haematology, pathology, etc. 

The latest order also states that all pre- and post-hospitalisation expenses, if done in the same hospital, should also be included within the new rates; and this includes expenses incurred for consultation, diagnostic tests and medicines before the admission of the patient and also the cost of diagnostic tests and medication up to 15 days after discharge from the hospital.

Meaning, if the patient had settled the bill on discharge, she should not be charged for any subsequent medical expenses in the hospital for up to 15 days

It has become usual for private hospitals to charge separately for PPE kits and oxygen cylinders. A private hospital in Kerala had, for instance, charged Rs 45,000 for the use of oxygen cylinders for two days. The High Court itself had pointed this out and had wanted the state government to urgently fix hospital rates.

There will be no change in the rates of COVID-19 tests. The RTPCR rate would continue as Rs 500.

Though the cost of PPE kits are not included in the newly fixed charges, the order states that, as agreed by the associations, only two PPE kits should be used daily in general wards and only five in ICUs.

The order also states that all hospitals should publish the rates of various treatments, consumables, medicines, doctors and nursing in a such way that these could be easily seen. 

Any instance of overcharging could be sent to the district medical officer. There will also be a three-member appellate authority chaired by C K Padmakaran. Dr V Rajeevan and Dr V G Pradeep Kumar will be members.

The MES and Catholic Hospital Association have said that they would accept the rates fixed by the government.

Here is the government order:

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