Pune: Corona Widows And Patients Share Experiences About Overcharging In Private Hospitals, Demand Refund Of Excess Fees After Audit

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Pune, 9th October 2021: Keeping in view widespread complaints of overcharging by private hospitals during COVID, Corona Ekal Mahila Punarvasan Samiti and Jan Arogya Abhiyan, Pune on Friday organized a ‘Santap Sabha’ (Anger Assembly) program at SM Joshi Foundation, Pune. 

During this program, several COVID widows and family members of COVID patients shared their testimonies, and Pune district specific findings from the State level survey on Hospital overcharging were shared, revealing shocking findings regarding expenses of COVID patients in private hospitals in Pune. 

It should be kept in view that responding to complaints of overcharging for COVID treatment, in May 2020 Maharashtra government had issued orders for rate capping of such treatment on 80% beds in private hospitals. However, in the recent survey jointly conducted by two large networks of Corona Ekal Mahila Punarvasan Samiti and Jan Arogya Abhiyan covering patients with analysis of hospital bills, it is clearly apparent that many private hospitals in Pune and many other districts flouted the order and have charged Covid patients much beyond the regulated rates. 

In this ‘Santap Sabha’, COVID widows and patients from Pune district shared their heart wrenching experiences of major overcharging by private hospitals. Along with them, Usha Wakhare, Mayur Bagul and Siddhi Shinde from ‘Corona Ekal Mahila Punarvasan Samiti’ spoke about the especially serious situation of COVID widows who are suffering from the dual burden of loss of their husbands and massive liability of hospital expenses. 

Kajal Jain, Shailaja Aralkar, Deepali Yakundi, Shakuntala Bhalerao, Suhas Kolhekar, Abhijit Dhende, Meena Shendkar, Abhijeet Kumbharkar from ‘Jan Arogya Abhiyan’ and Public Health experts Dr Abhay Shukla and Dr Anant Phadke as well as other activists spoke and participated in the program.

Conclusions from the survey concerning Pune

During the Survey conducted by ‘Corona Ekal Mahila Punarvasan Samiti’ and ‘Jan Arogya Abhiyan’ information was collected from various talukas of the Pune district including Haveli, Shirur, Daund, Mulshi, Maval, Ambegaon, Indapur, Baramati, Purandhar and Bhor. Key findings are as follows:

  • Out of the 68 COVID patients from Pune in this survey who lost their lives, 44 (64.7%) have been charged bills in excess of the officially mandated rates. Among the Pune based patients covered by the survey who were admitted to Private hospitals, average daily charges by hospitals were Rs. 22,173 which is three times higher than the maximum allowed for ICU care. Average excess billing of these patients was a whopping Rs. 2,26 lakhs.
  • Of the 61 Covid widows from Pune covered in this survey, 40 women lost their husbands who were below 50 years of age. In many families the deceased patient was the only earning member. In addition, most had to pay huge amounts to meet hospital bills; 23 widows had to pay over Rs. one lakh as excess bill for the treatment of their husbands. These women and their families have paid on average Rs.1.87 lakhs as excess hospital charges. Most of these families had to take loans, which are very difficult to repay since with loss of the main earner there is crisis of livelihood for these families.

Of the 121 patient participants in the survey in Pune, only 8 (6.6%) patients got the benefit of Mahatma Phule Jan Arogya Yojana. All these patients were admitted to Private hospitals, and despite being eligible for MPJAY and PMJAY which offer cover of hospitalisation expenses upto Rs 5 lakhs, 6 out of these 8 patients had to pay extra amounts to private hospitals in the range of two to five lakhs.

These 121 cases from across Pune district that were covered by the rapid survey are representative of the catastrophic problem of Covid related excess and inflated billing by private hospitals, despite rate regulation orders by the Maharashtra government. Unfortunately, many patients lost their lives, leaving behind families under the burden of big loans. Particularly Covid widows are facing huge financial pressures due to overcharging by private hospitals. Under these circumstances, the enormous overcharging by private hospitals is not just unethical but is also illegal. 

Demands by Corona Ekal Mahila Punarvasan Samiti and Jan Arogya Abhiyan:

  • Concerned authorities in Pune should promptly trace all families of COVID patients who have complaints of unjustified charging by private hospitals, audit their bills, and ensure the refund of overcharged amounts by private hospitals within a month. In view of the serious condition of COVID widows, Maharashtra state government and Pune officials must prioritise them to ensure that private hospitals must refund the overcharged amounts in all such instances. 
  • State government should take action against all such private hospitals which have repeatedly violated state government orders regarding rate capping for COVID care.
  • The Government of Maharashtra should immediately appoint a special commission (which should include government representatives, concerned social organizations, health rights networks and health experts). The Commission would help to expedite the search operation process for overcharging cases and could oversee the audit of cases in different districts, while dealing with various contentious issues during the process. 
  • The State government order concerning rate capping on private hospitals for COVID treatment has expired on 31 August 2021. This period should be extended till 31st December 2021 as the epidemic is still going on and third wave is expected. 
  • The official draft Clinical Establishments Act that has been prepared in 2014 to bring regulation on private hospitals in Maharashtra is pending for last seven years. Despite repeated assurances to the public, the Maharashtra government has failed to enact such a law to ensure regulation of private hospitals and protection of patients. Now this regulatory act for private hospitals, including rate regulation for the benefit of patients must definitely be introduced in the next assembly session.
  • Patient Rights Charter has already been recognized by the Government of India, and Union Ministry of Health has informed all the states to implement this Charter in all private and government hospitals in the letter dated June 2, 2019. However, despite assurances by Health Minister to implement this charter given during a state level meeting on 31st May 2021, the charter has not been implemented in Maharashtra yet. Orders for implementing the Patient Rights Charter should be issued by Maharashtra Health department immediately.

Contacts: 

Usha Wakhare-89286 44866 (Corona Ekal Mahila Punarvasan Samiti)

Kajal Jain – 99702 31967 (Jan Arogya Abhiyan, Pune)

Representative cases 

Case 1 – Babita Konde (Name Changed) stays in Hadapsar. In the month of April, my husband, son and father-in-law became covid positive and got admitted in the hospital. Firstly, my husband died. Then my father-in-law died. I spent rupees two lakh fifty thousand for their treatment. All of my savings spent for bill payment. I have to mortgage my jewellery. My family lost both earning members. We are looking forward to state government for some kind of help. 

Case 2 – Manisha Sakharam Mandhare. Resident of Tonapewadi, Taluka- Purandar, District- Pune. My husband was admitted in two hospitals for the treatment of covid for total 26 days. Total bill came about Rs 10 Lakh rupees. One political leader called the hospital. Subsequently, the bill was slightly reduced. We paid Rs 40000 for remdesivir injections to the hospital separately but didn’t receive receipts for the same. We had to borrow money from relatives, we took loan and mortgaged jewellery to pay the bill.

Case 3 – 20 year old Shabana (name changed) lost both mother and father due to covid. Total bill came about 3.5 lakhs and medicines expenses. She has two younger siblings including handicapped brother. Shabana now has to look after these siblings. Shabana cant apply to any scheme for covid widows. Similarly she cant apply for any scheme for covid patient’s children as her age is more than 18 years. She desperately needs help from the government. 

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