Private Hospitals Overcharging for COVID-19 treatment: 61% citizens want private hospital charges for COVID-19 to be standardized or capped
- • 32% citizens don’t want to visit a Government or Private Hospitals and stay home if infected with COVID-19
- • Most worried about exorbitant charges at Private Hospitals and risk of secondary infection at Government Hospitals
- • 7% say they have atleast 1 COVID-19 positive in their social network
May 30, 2020, New Delhi:The cases of COVID-19 in India are increasing at a rapid pace. Over 1,80,000 Coronavirus cases have been reported in India so far with more than 5000 deaths, surpassing China. The average daily cases being reported has steadily moved from 2000 a day in early May to almost 8000 a day. Maharashtra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan are among the top 5 states with COVID-19 patients.
Citizens have been regularly discussing COVID-19 updates, concerns, risks and experiences amongst each other. To get an in depth understanding of citizen perspective on COVID-19, LocalCircles has conducted a survey and received over 40.000 responses from citizens residing in 237 districts of the country.
In the first question, citizens were asked about the prevalence of COVID-19 amongst their social networks. 7% respondents said they have atleast 1 COVID-19 positive in their social network, i.e. Family, friends, colleagues, neighbor etc. 89% said they did not have any such person in their network, 4% did not have an opinion.
7% citizens say they have atleast 1 COVID-19 positive in their social network(family, friends, colleagues, neighbours etc.)
Many citizens consider the private healthcare system in the country to be better than the Government run hospitals in terms of quality. The general notion amongst many in top metros is that most Government hospitals are for the underprivileged section and are badly maintained.
People were asked in the next question that if they were to become COVID-19 positive, where would they prefer to go for COVID-19 treatment. In response, 32% citizens said they would want to go to a private hospital in case they become COVID-19 positive. 22% said they would want to go to a Government hospital and 32% said they would not want to go to a hospital at all. 14% were unsure about it.
Earlier, when COVID-19 started spreading in India in March 2020, only Government hospitals were designated as centers for COVID-19 treatment which was then opened later to select private hospitals as well.
However, in red zones, especially high virus load districts, many citizens have expressed concerns about limited capacity in private hospitals and long waiting times in Government hospitals to get admitted for COVID-19 treatment. That explains why 32% citizens say that they would rather stay home and take treatment at home and not go to the hospitals unless it is an emergency situation.
Only 32% citizens say they want to go to a private hospital in case they become COVID-19 positive
For many years, hygiene, cleanliness and unfriendly staff in Government hospitals have been a patient’s major concern. Although hospitals like AIIMS have world class doctors and equipment, many have been wary of going there because of long waiting times and in most cases the need for a VIP connection to get admission. As a result, many over time have started choosing private hospitals over Government ones.
The third question asked citizens that for COVID-19 treatment, what is their top concern with Government hospitals. 46% citizens said chances of secondary infection due to crowd and poor adherence to standards was the top risk with Government hospitals for COVID-19 treatment. 32% said lack of adequate infrastructure and resources while 16% said long waiting time and inefficiencies were major issues. Only 3% said the quality of staff was their top concern.
46% citizens feel chances of secondary infection due to crowd and poor adherence to standards is the top risk with Government Hospitals in regards to COVID-19 treatment
Cases from Mumbai have been reported on LocalCircles as to how Government hotlines would confirm the availability of a bed to COVID-19 patients which when they reached the hospital would become unavailable. As a result, some patients have been made to stay in the ambulance for 6-8 hours outside the hospital or get admission in the general ward instead of the ICU.
The top concern amongst people with Government hospitals is that even a mild COVID-19 case could worsen after going to the hospital because of additional exposure and have increased chances of a secondary infection. This is particularly important in people with co-morbidities and the senior citizens.
People have also complained that private hospitals have been refusing admission to COVID-19 patients because of the limited capacity they have assigned to COVID-19 patients. Earlier this week, the Delhi Government mandated that over 100 private nursing homes and hospitals in Delhi are required to commit 20% of their beds for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
One of the other top issues that has repetitively been raised on LocalCircles has been the exorbitant charges imposed by private hospitals for COVID-19 treatment. Citizens have shared screenshots of private hospital lobbies where ICU charges of as much as 30,000 a day were quoted and charged to COVID-19 patients. Multiple bill copies were shared by relatives of COVID-19 patients and a charge of 9 lakh for a 12 day COVID-19 treatment is not uncommon.
To ensure that such charges by private hospitals were in fact not an exception, citizens were asked about their top concern with private hospitals with respect to COVID-19 treatment. In response, 57% said exorbitant charges, 14% said unnecessary tests, 7% said lack of knowledge of COVID-19 treatment protocols and 5% said difficulty in getting admission. 5% said they had other concerns while 12% were unsure about it.
With no known vaccine available, the treatment has mostly involved addressing the symptoms rather than its root. Many consumers have reported on LocalCircles that PPE kits and cost of medicines have been a major component of the bills of people that they know, who have been admitted in a private hospital for the treatment of COVID-19. The cost, they said, would almost double in case the patient was in the ICU.
57% citizens say their top concern with COVID-19 treatment at private hospitals are exorbitant charges; another 14% say it is excessive tests conducted
The final question asked people how the issue of exorbitant charges for COVID-19 by private hospitals can be addressed. 21% said Government should cap per day ward/room and ICU charges for COVID-19 treatment, while 40% said Government should standardize or mandate per day COVID-19 ward/room and ICU charges based on hospital category (similar to hotel star ratings). 28% respondents said Government should take over 80% - 100% of the capacity of private hospitals under the Epidemic Disease Act, while 2% said Government should just set up a functioning complaint redressal mechanism specifically for COVID-19 which imposes heavy penalties for overcharging. 6% said Government should let private hospitals charge what they find appropriate to sustain their business.
61% citizens want Government to price cap or standardize COVID-19 treatment related room/ward charges in private hospitals based on hospital category
Even today, many private hospitals, especially in smaller towns do not break up the charges of room, consumables and services and it is offered as a single package. According to people, given that COVID-19 is already having a major economic impact on people’s lives, most can’t sustain high cost of treatments. Therefore, the need of the hour is for Central and State Governments to cap the treatment charges or atleast standardize them based on hospital category or rating.
The State Government of Maharashtra was the first one to move in this regard after patients shared reports of overcharging via LocalCircles and other social media platforms. The Government capped the charges for ICU bed without ventilator and isolation to INR 7000/day and with ventilator and isolation to INR 9000/day. Similarly, charges for routine ward with isolation were capped at INR 4000/day.
According to people, the price cap or standardization must be done in conjunction with Government making enough beds available for treatment at private hospitals. Many have also faced issues with the municipal or state helplines for COVID-19 where there is no clarity given to patients about where exactly to go. Recently, as a test case 40 calls were made by a TV channel to the Delhi helpline over a time period and 30 of them went unanswered. These issues according to people must be fixed on priority.
LocalCircles will be submitting a copy of this report to senior stakeholders in various state Governments as well as in the Central Government so that actions can be taken on the concerns raised here in.
61% citizens want private hospital charges for COVID-19 treatment standardized or capped; 28% in favour of Government taking over majority of their bed capacity
40,000+ responses were received from 237 districts of India. 63% respondents were men while 37% respondents were women. 46% respondents were from tier 1, 35% from tier 2 and 19% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. They survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants are validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.