Supreme Court to Union Government: Fix Rates for Affordable Medical Treatment in Private Hospitals

Mainstream
06-Mar-2024
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The Supreme Court has directed the Union Government to take decisive steps in establishing rates for affordable medical treatment in private hospitals nationwide. The order came in response to a plea filed by the Veterans Forum for Transparency in Public Life, urging the government to notify hospital treatment rates in alignment with the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010.

Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta emphasized the government's responsibility in ensuring accessible healthcare, stating, "The Union of India cannot shirk away from its responsibility by merely stating that communication has been addressed to the State Governments/Union Territories and they are not responding."

The Court highlighted the avowed objective of the 2010 Act, which aims to provide medical facilities to citizens at affordable prices. The plea specifically sought directions for the Central government to determine patient fees in accordance with Rule 9 of the Clinical Establishment (Central Government) Rules, 2012. Rule 9 mandates medical clinics to offer services at rates prescribed by the Central government after consultation with States/Union Territories.

The Union Health Ministry argued that only 12 State governments and 7 Union Territories have adopted the Act, hindering the notification of hospital treatment rates. Unimpressed with this explanation, the Court ordered the Union Health Ministry to convene a virtual meeting with the Health Ministries of all States and Union Territories.

"The Secretary, Department of Health, Union of India, can always meet with his counterparts of the State Governments/Union Territories to do the needful. Nowadays, physical meetings are also not necessary; they can be arranged through virtual mode," the Court stated.

The Court warned that if the next hearing does not present a concrete proposal, the rates under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) could be considered interim rates for private clinics.

"In the event the Central Government does not come out with a concrete proposal by the next date of hearing, we will consider issuing appropriate directions in this regard," the Court concluded.

Author: Anushka Taraniya

News Writer, MIT ADT University