Significantly, this amount is exactly half the upper limit set by the union government.

Pvt labs in Karnataka can charge Rs 2250 for testing samples sent by state govtPTI. Representative image
news Coronavirus Friday, April 17, 2020 - 19:42

The Karnataka government on Friday said they have fixed the price of conducting tests at private laboratories for COVID-19 at Rs 2,250 per person following negotiations with private players. This Rs 2,250 is the composite cost of the screening and the confirmatory test.

Speaking to reporters, the Health Department clarified that this price is only to be paid by the government to private players for samples sent by the government. For patients prescribed by private practitioners, private labs can charge a maximum of Rs 4,500 as set by the Indian Council for Medical Research. The ICMR had proposed an upper limit of Rs 1500 for screening and Rs 3000 for confirmatory.

A circular issued to the same effect said that these labs (as of now five in the state) will have to follow protocols set by the union government and they have to share real time data with the state government and the Indian Council of Medical Research pertaining to diagnosis.

The circular stressed that increasing the number of tests per day was of great importance and for this more private labs will be included in the coming days.

The circular incidentally comes in the wake of revised Supreme Court order which said that private labs can charge people who are able to make payment of the fee as fixed by the ICMR. For beneficiaries of Ayushman Bharat scheme and any other category of economically weaker sections, the private labs will have to do tests for free. Private lab owners have demanded they be reimbursed by the government immediately.

The apex court was approached by one orthopaedic surgeon Dr Kaushal Kant Mishra who said that free testing will lead to burdening of private labs leading them to shut shop.

Reacting to this, All India Drug Action Network (AIDAN), an organisation advocating for dignified and affordable Healthcare, said, "Karnataka's decision to set a reimbursement rate to private labs for testing of government samples at Rs. 2250 shows that the ICMR cap is significantly inflated.”

In a statement, AIDAN added, “We urge the Centre to reconsider its stand and to make COVID-19 testing free at the point of service. We urge State governments which are anyway involved in setting reimbursement rates for Ayushman Bharat beneficiaries & for processing of government samples to expand free testing to everyone. Reimbursement rates should based on rational assessment of costs and must take into account commercial test kits entering the market at disruptive prices as low as Rs. 500.”

They argued that in this crisis, the burden must not fall on families because for many, the costs would be prohibitive and act as financial barriers to testing which may prove critical against the interst of containing the outbreak.

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