Supreme Court sets deadline for Centre to fix standardised hospital charges nationwide [28.2.2024]

After a major discrepancy in hospital rates was brought to the Supreme Court attention, the court has asked the central government to take immediate action. It has also called on the Centre to standardise rates for medical procedures across all states.

The discrepancy was highlighted in a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the NGO 'Veterans Forum for Transparency in Public Life'. In the PIL, it was noted that the cost of cataract surgery in a private hospital can range from Rs 30,000 to Rs 1,40,000 per eye, whereas the rates in a government hospital are up to Rs 10,000 per eye.

The plea sought for the Centre to determine the fee chargeable to patients based on Rule 9 of the Clinical Establishment Rules 2012.

Under this, all hospitals and clinical establishments must "display rates charged for each type of service provided and facilities available for the benefit of patients at a conspicuous place in the vernacular as well as in the English language; and charge rates for each type of procedure and service within the range of rates determined and issued by the Centre from time to time, in consultation with state governments." According to the rules, this must be done for hospitals and clinics to keep their registrations valid.

The matter was heard by a bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta, who have called on the Union health secretary to ensure standardisation is implemented within the next month.

"If the Union government fails to find a solution, then we will consider the petitioner's plea for implementing Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS)-prescribed standardised rates," the top court warned the Centre.

The last time standardised rates were implemented across the country was during the Covid-19 pandemic. The petitioner also stated that if the states did not cooperate with the government's rates, it might use its powers under central legislation to notify citizens of the costs that would be charged.

28 Feb 2024