Petitioner Avishek Goenka told the court that private hospitals are charging exorbitant fees from covid patients making it inaccessible to most Covid patients, thereby impinging Articles 14 & 21.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, M R Shah and V Ramasubramanian asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to file Centre's response on putting an upper limit on fees to be charged by private hospitals for treating Coronavirus patients. Court listed the matter after a week.
The petitioner states that the arbitrary process of admissions to hospitals creates seggregations basis the affluent and those who cannot afford treatment.
The plea also seeks, the following prayers-
"a. Issue appropriate writ(s) / direction(s) to the respondents to, immediately direct the insurance companies, to immediately settle, full claims, which are raised as per Government specified rates.
b. Issue appropriate writ(s) / direction(s) to the respondents to, immediately frame and advertise the mechanism to avail – Private Hospitals facility, in case of Covid-19 Infection, as per the choice and affordability of the patient.
c. Issue appropriate writ(s) / direction(s) to the respondents to, immediately frame and advertise the mechanism to avail – Private facility for Covid-19 Quarantine."
In this backdrop, the plea relies on several news reports which suggest that insurance companies have curtailed insurance claims of many people and have been denying cashless facilities for them at counters. This, the petitioner contends has left many citizens in a lurch during these trying times.
"These are extraordinary times and many citizens are left, without any income. Their savings are also dented. If the cashless facility is not granted during admission, the patients without enough cash, will be left in lurch and forced to opt for – substandard Government Facilities despite being equipped with tool of Private Admission. Similarly if the claims are not rightly settled during discharge, the patient will not be released from the Hospital, until the patient family, makes the payment for the balance amount".
While drawing corollaries with the West Bengal Government which has fixed rates for private hospitals, the plea contends that the Centre can do the same by formulating an expert committee for the said purpose.
"The Government can be directed to frame policies, for areas, where there is no policy. Because absence of a policy, contributes to – chaos and confusion. There is no mechanism specified in the Central Government Circulars, directing establishment of nodal window for a suffering individual and his family, which can direct them to the - Private – Quarantine and/or Hospital facilities."