A Delhi-based doctor on Saturday moved the Supreme Court seeking a modification of its earlier order that directed that testing be made free in both government and private hospitals. The orthopedist contends that this verdict will put additional burden on the private labs and disincentivise them.
As per a CNBC TV18 post, the petition says that many private labs already have reservations about testing unless there is clarity given on how funding will be done. It notes that no clarification has so far been given by the centre or State governments when it comes to reimbursements.
Utkarsh Anand, the legal editor of the publication adds that the plea suggests that it should be made free only EWS patients, with immediate reimbursement by the government.
As per reports, a hearing is likely to be held next week.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court of India asked the Centre to ensure that all coronavirus tests were made available free of costs.
"The tests relating to COVID-19 whether in approved Government Laboratories or approved private Laboratories shall be free of cost. The respondents shall issue necessary direction in this regard immediately," a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and Shripathi Ravindra Bhat had written. They had also said that the testing must be carried out in NABL accredited labs or by agencies that have been approved by the World Health Organisation or the ICMR.
Keep in mind that tests while made free in some places, had earlier had a cap of Rs 4,500 when it came to private agencies and hospitals.
The verdict, while hailed by many has made many private labs hesitant about testing for the novel coronavirus.
For most private laboratories, The Free Press Journal's Jescilia Karayamparambil had earlier reported, the pricing of PPE has been already hurting them. The FPJ report quoted Thyrocare’s Vice President Chandrasekar Mani who believes that if free testing is the way forward, the government will have to pay the private laboratories. Otherwise the private laboratories would not be able to function -- there being a a large number of associated costs such as transportation of the swab samples, the PPE having to be changed for every test, the cost of the kit and so on.
Many others including Biocon chairperson, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, have called the apex court's judgement unviable. A Business Today report quoted Shaw as saying that it would be a challenging endeavour for laboratories, especially when one took the current economic scenario into account.
"The whole purpose behind including private laboratories was to augment testing capacity. They have already been told to conduct tests at government-specified rates." Shaw pointed out.