The Kerala High Court on Wednesday, October 6, sought the state government's views to make treatment free for post-COVID-19 complications for 30 days for people above the poverty line but who fall under the low-income group. A division bench of the court raised the question during the hearing of a revision petition filed by an association of private hospitals against fixing of treatment charges in private hospitals. The division bench comprising Justice Devan Ramachandran and Justice Kauser Edappagath observed that the post-COVID-19 for 30 days after the patients tested negative should be considered as COVID-19 treatment and asked what prevented the government from providing free treatment for post-COVID complications.
The government informed the court that people above the poverty line but having an annual income of less than Rs 3 lakh are eligible for a free treatment. The court then asked what can be done in the case of those earning a little over the Rs 3 lakh cut off, as they would face financial difficulties in paying for the treatment. “Not everyone above the poverty line is a millionaire. What will happen to a person earning a monthly salary of Rs 27,000 if he was charged a daily rent of Rs 700 for post-COVID treatment? How will he manage the other expenses? How will he even have food?" LiveLaw quoted the court as saying.
The court observed that the Union government considers the death of COVID-19 patients within 30 days of testing negative for the coronavirus as COVID-19 deaths, reported the Times of India. Senior government pleader S Kannan submitted that fixation of maximum rates for post-COVID complications would ensure that private hospitals didn’t charge exorbitant rates from patients above the poverty line. The court however said that the government's order for not providing free treatment for post-COVID complications even for people below poverty line can't be justified.
The government in May had released an order to cap the treatment and bed charges in private hospitals. The order said that private hospitals that have a National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) can charge Rs 2,910 per day for general ward and those without the accreditation can charge Rs 2,645 per day. The order said that the High Dependency Unit (HDU) can charge Rs 3,795 (non-NABH) and Rs 4,175 (NABH) per day.
In April, the HC had directed the government to take measures to cut costs at private hospitals for the treatment of COVID-19 cases while hearing a petition that sought to reduce the exorbitant rates charged by private hospitals and to introduce a universal rate.