The Telangana High Court on Thursday issued notice on a plea to direct the Union of lndia and the State of Telangana to provide for free-of-cost diagnosis and treatment to patients suffering from COVID at private medical laboratories and private medical establishments.
The bench noted that 'the Supreme Court, vide its order of April 8, has already directed that the tests related to COVID-I9 whether in government laboratories, or approved private laboratories, shall be free of cost'.
However, the court noted the submission of petitioner-advocate, Mr. Tirumala Rao, that while the diagnostic part has been covered by the aforementioned order of the Apex Court, the issue with regard to treatment of the patients in the private hospital establishments still exists.
"According to him, the IRDAI has already issued a circular directing the Insurance Companies to treat COVID-I9 as a 'disease' to be covered under the medical insurance polices. Therefore, the segment of population, which already has medical insurance policies, would be covered by the Insurance Companies. However, the issue with regard to the treatment of those persons who do not have the benefit of such medical insurance policies would continue to exist", observed the bench.
Accordingly, the Court directed both the Advocate General (on behalf of the state of Telangana), as well as the Assistant Solicitor General (for the UOI and the Indian Council of Medical Research), to inform the Court about the treatment of those persons who are not covered by medical insurance policies- whether bills of their treatment would be covered by any of the schemes floated by the Central or the State Government or not? "If they are covered by such Central or State Government schemes, the particular scheme under which they would be covered should be informed to this Court", ordered the Chief Justice-led bench.
The Supreme Court's order that COVID-19 tests be carried out free of cost in both government laboratories and in approved private laboratories, requiring the government of India to issue necessary directions in this behalf, has invited criticism from several quarters for being an act of judicial overreach. Passing the interim order, the top court had added that the issue whether private laboratories are entitled to reimbursement from the government for the expenses incurred for COVID-19 tests will be considered later.
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