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Kerala HC Discusses COVID Treatment Tariffs Across Private Hospitals

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A special sitting was summoned by the Kerala High Court to discuss measures to rationalize COVID treatment tariffs across private hospitals. The Division Bench led by Justices Devan Ramachandran and Dr. Kauser Edappagath in the case of ADV. SABU P. JOSEPH V. STATE OF KERALA recognized that the measures submitted by the Government of Kerala had reduced the Court’s burden in this respect to a large extent.

Facts of the Case 

The hearing is in response to the adjourned session for the Government of Kerala to come up with new regulations and measures for the people of Kerala. The special sitting was due to the arguments raised to rationalize COVID-19 treatment tariffs across private hospitals, labs, and diagnostic centers in the state and set up the measure in consideration with people of all financial situations.


The Petitioner’s plea concerned the private medical centers and testing centers charging high prices to exploit the pandemic situation and fear of people in the society. The Petitioner’s plea stated that the state government was bound to take appropriate action or remedial measures to regularize the high charges imposed by private hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients. In the second session taken up in Court, the Bench voiced its concern at the Petitioner’s submissions and stated that citizens were being pushed to the precipice, the state has a significant role in controlling and containing pursuit of profit by any stakeholder, which included private hospitals. It was stated that the regulation became more crucial since citizens had no reference point as to what defined a fair price. Ultimately, the Court expressed that the fixing of price to be possible only by the state.

Court’s observations

In the course of the judgment, the Court observed that the Government included Covid Treatment under the Kerala Clinical Establishments Act. At the previous hearing, the Bench had proposed a list of measures for the state government’s consideration. An important measure suggested was whether 50% of the beds in non-empanelled private hospitals could be taken by the State Government, on the lines of the model followed in Andhra Pradesh. The Kerala Government had previously notified that 50% of beds in non-empanelled private hospitals would have to be dedicated for Covid-19 treatment.

In hospitals designated by the Government as Covid hospitals (empanelled hospitals), 50% of beds are already under the control of the Government for Covid. The Court had directed the State Attorney to obtain instructions on rates charged on 50% of beds that were not reserved in the Government’s Covid-19 empanelled hospitals and the rates for Covid beds in non-empanelled hospitals.

The Court observed the new brought up Government order in accord to the argument presented. At the hearing, the State Attorney informed the Court that 50% of beds in government and private hospitals, ESIC hospitals, and medical colleges were reserved for Covid treatment. The order informed the rates per day in General Wards of National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers-accredited hospitals (NABH hospitals), and non-NABH hospital rates would be fixed Rs 2910 and 2645, respectively.

The rates for people who are not covered under the Government’s Karunya Scheme (KASP) or government-sponsorship would operate in nursing homes and private hospitals. The rate would be inclusive of oxygen, medicine, drugs, and nursing and boarding charges. High-end investigations such as CT and HRTC would be excluded. The Maximum Retail Price would govern the rates of PPE kits, medications, and other tests or any other notification or order regulating the same as and when published.

The state informed that the rates of RT-PCR tests would be the same as charged in a previous Government Order covering a rate at Rs 500. As per the new order, District Medical Officers and authorities under the Kerala Clinical Establishments Act and Rules would operate as grievance redressal officers to adjudicate and investigate cases of exorbitant rates being fixed; the State Attorney informed the Court. The standard toll-free number for Covid queries in the state System was proposed that prescribed treatment protocol and management of different categories of patients – patient management system, Fixing rates of consumables pro-rata and pathology rates per actuals, Fixing a benchmark for doctor/nurse consultation charges.

Court’s decision

In its judgment closing the PIL, the Court stated that the Court is more than pleased with the Government’s Order and found the rates to be extremely reasonable. The Court emphasized that the rates charged on the excluded expenses could be as per actuals. Also describing the new order as fantastic, the Court observed that it could be allowed to operate for the next two weeks, and then the Court would take stock of compliance/whether changes would be necessary.

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