Private hospital chains in Delhi caught jacking up prices in Competition Commission of India’s report

The report shows that 12 super speciality hospitals in Delhi and NCR were charging exorbitant rates for medicines, medical tests as well as other supplies and services.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Friday, September 23, 2022, 06:52 PM IST
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The medical profession is largely seen as a noble profession, and providing care becomes difficult for government hospitals in India due to lack of funds and medicines. There’s even a 76 per cent shortfall of specialists in rural hospitals, as doctors move to private hospitals for better pay. But some private hospital chains are treating healthcare as a profit-driven activity, and often go overboard with that. A report by India’s competition watchdog has found that major hospital chains exploited their market position to charge exorbitant rates from patients over the past four years.

Hospital rooms priced at par with luxury hotels

The competition commission of India CCI will be discussing responses from Fortis, Apollo, Sir Gangaram Hospital, Max Healthcare, Batra and St Stephens Hospital, post which it may impose a 10 per cent penalty according to reports. The commission caught 12 super speciality hospitals in and around Delhi, charging excessive and unfair rates for medical services. Apart from room prices at par with or more than three and four-star hotels, the prices of medical devices, consumables and tests were also jacked up.

Everything from X-ray, MRI and ultrasound scans to syringes and surgical instruments, was priced higher as compared to diagnostic centers and consumable vendors, as per the report. Although medicines weren’t sold beyond maximum market prices, the hospitals made profits since they were procured at lower rates. The turnover for 2015-18, along with the number of doctors and beds was taken into consideration by the CCI, while selecting hospital chains for the report.

Worlds apart?

Among these Apollo has made a turnover of Rs 12,206 crore in the past three fiscal years, while Fortis made Rs 4,384 crore. This comes at a time when there has been a marginal rise in India’s healthcare budget, even after government hospitals struggled against covid waves.

Speaking of the pandemic, 68,000 complaints about hospitals overcharging and denying treatment were received in Maharashtra alone, as 75 per cent covid patients had to pay exorbitant rates to private hospitals in the state. About 12 hospitals in Navi Mumbai had also been ordered to repay Rs 1.36 crore after overcharging patients.

Fortis was also accused of overcharging a dengue patient in 2017, when it handed a Rs 16 lakh bill for a 15 day stay to the parents of a child admitted at its hospital in Gurugram.

An alternative view

In contrast to India, South Korea has a law that only allows not-for-profit organisations to operate private hospitals. Which is why the country’s first for-profit hospital in a special economic zone, was barred from admitting South Korean nationals as patients. But the decision to lift this ban by a court has received pushback from doctors, over fears of privatisation of healthcare.

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