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PIL in Supreme Court seeks direction for Hospitals to reduce expenses for non-COVID-19 medical treatment

Given the uncertain halt in regular income for a large number of people and the expenses that medical treatments call for, there should be relaxations in expenses for non-COVID-19 medical treatment, it is contended.

Shruti Mahajan

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court for the Government to issue directions to all public hospitals for the reduction or relaxation of non COVID-19-related medical treatment bills and expenses.

Further, the petition filed by advocate Sourjya Das prays that private hospitals, laboratories and others also be directed to reduce non-COVID-19 treatment expenses.

An additional prayer made is for directing hospitals and medical facilities to collect all bills in adherence to the reduced expenses prayed for in the plea.

The petitioner recounts that about a month after the novel coronavirus outbreak was declared a global pandemic by the World health Organization (WHO), the government of India imposed a nation-wide lockdown, beginning from March 25.

While doing so, however, the Centre did not take any steps to reduce the medical expenses and bills for non-COVID-19 treatments. This, it is claimed, is a "direct infringement of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution."

The lockdown has brough a halt to earning a livelihood for a large portion the citizenry, and people are constrained to dip into their savings even for the bare essentials such as food and shelter, the plea states. At a time like this, people will continue to need non-COVID-19 medical treatment and facilities or treatments like chemotherapy, surgeries, and such.

Given the indefinite and uncertain halt in earning from regular sources of income and the expenses that medical treatments call for, the authorities ought to relax or reduce the bills and expenses for the non-COVID-19 medical treatments, the petitioner contends.

"...the healthcare sector is the most important and one of the most expensive sectors in public life. It is a subject of fear and tension in a common man’s life when one thinks of incurring costs for healthcare if or when the need arises."
the petition reasons.

Till date, no circular or order has been issued by the government directing for a relaxation in medical fees and expenses charged by hospitals and medical facilities, the petitioner says.

It is further argued that at a time like this, there is an urgent need in public interest for such a step i.e. the reduction of general medical expenses, to be taken, both at private and public hospitals.

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