New Delhi: The Supreme court on Tuesday expressed its unwillingness to set a uniform rate for Covid-19 treatment and observed that medical facility and condition vastly vary from state to state. However, it held that no individuals should be denied treatment due to high rates.
Chief Justice Bobde said, “There is unanimity that cost of treatment cannot be same in all states. Thus it’s ubiquitous to impose a ceiling on the cost of treatment.”
He also added “We agree that the cost of medical treatment should not act as a deterrent to access to medical care and that no one should be turned away from doors of health care institutions as costs are too high.”
The petition, filed by Advocate Sachin Jain seeks regulation of covid-19 treatments costs across private and corporate hospitals in the country. He has cited that as much as Rs12 Lakh is being asked for covid-19 treatment in certain private hospitals. He has sought directions from the top court for the government to issue notification regarding nationwide cost regulations for covid-19 treatment at private hospitals.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing Centre, submitted before the court that the government has constituted a high level committee and is looking into the issue. The court granted time to the government to meet all the concerned parties of the case and come to mutually acceptable solution.
The Centre in its reply filed on 5 June, had submitted that it had no statutory power under the provisions of law to direct a charitable or private hospital to give free treatment to covid-19 patients. The Centre added that it is the state government who could possible issue directions to the hospital.
The court said, “We don’t think the union should regulate the price of treatment. But this is not to say that the union government should do nothing. There is no reason for the union not to exercise powers under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005,” the bench noted.
The bench also observed that it is not possible to lay down cost of medical care across the country by this court. Since, the conditions and available medical facilities vastly determine the cost of treatment in each state and this varies in every state. “We are neither inclined nor equipped to see how to treat covid patients,” said court.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve, representing private hospital, opposed setting of a rates for covid treatment and argued that government could not direct private hospitals to set fixed rates. He argued, “Each state is grappling with its problem. The workers who are working are to take leave, after one week. It is not that hospitals are here to make profits from this situation. Their staff salaries have been doubled. COVID patients’treatment is different, with use of ventilators etc. You can’t simply say that one pricing should he there.”
Mehta submitted that a government official will meet the parties on 16 July and a solution will be reached within a week. He added that the decision from the meeting will be placed before this court for further consideration so that directions can be issued to states under Disaster Management Act.
The court in its order took a note of the submissions by the Centre that the underprivileged are covered under Ayushman Bharat scheme.