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Health Ministry to Collaborate with States on Standardizing Healthcare Expenses

The Ministry of Health is set to engage in consultations with state governments this week to seek recommendations for establishing uniform charges for treatment at healthcare facilities nationwide, according to a report by the Economic Times (ET).

This move comes in response to concerns raised by the Supreme Court (SC) last week regarding the significant disparity in treatment costs between government and private healthcare institutions. The court directed the Centre to promptly set treatment charges for patients within six weeks.

The Supreme Court also instructed the Union health secretary to convene a meeting with state counterparts to address the discrepancy in rates and ensure the notification of a standard rate within one month. The court reiterated citizens’ fundamental right to healthcare, highlighting the government’s responsibility in guaranteeing this right.

Criticism was also directed at the Centre for its failure to specify a range of rates within which private hospitals and clinics can bill patients, despite a rule being framed on this matter twelve years ago.

Since health comes under the purview of the state government, the Centre can help provide guidance in moving forward with the SC’s directives.

The Association of Healthcare Providers (AHPI), representing medium and small hospitals, plans to intervene in the Supreme Court on behalf of the industry, ET added. AHPI has proposed the adoption of established scientific principles to determine procedure costs and establish a standardized pricing range to address facility categorization.

Private hospitals have expressed concerns, stating that healthcare costs were determined by various factors, including geographic areas (input costs can be higher in urban settings), doctor experience, facility amenities, infection control measures, and patient safety protocols. Thus, standardisation may compromise the overall quality of healthcare at private facilities.

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