Millennium Post

Govt likely to standardise prices of diagnostic tests

If all goes as per the plan, poor patients would soon get rid of paying a hefty amount to diagnostic centres for essential medical tests as the government is mulling to standardise the prices of those procedures.

According to sources, the government is planning to fix the charges of diagnostic procedures as there is no uniform price model being followed by labs for any medical tests or pathological procedures in the country.

"The Health Ministry has asked the states to submit the price list of different laboratory tests which would be examined by an expert committee. The idea behind the whole exercise is to fix the charges for diagnostic tests as the government has taken its decision in the case of life-saving medicines," a source said, adding that each hospital has their own price list for tests such as MRI, CT scan, ultrasound, etc.

Getting better treatment has become a costly affair in the country and the diagnostic procedures are like adding fuel to the fire, he said.

Different studies have pointed it out that doctors 'prescribe' unwanted tests in lieu of getting 'cuts' from labs, which puts extra financial burden on patients, he added.

"The move to 'fix' the prices of tests would help in discouraging such practices. When the labs wouldn't get 'extra' margin on diagnostic procedures, they would refrain from 'tying-up' with doctors," the source added.

Giving a brief synopsis, the source said the project is in the initial stage and the idea has also been floated to divide the cities into different categories as per the disease prevalence, availability of healthcare facilities, etc.

"It has been found that even in the capital city of the country, charges of tests differ from one hospital to another. Similarly, the rates of diagnostic procedures also don't match with other centres in the same city," the source said.

The government in its National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data has pointed out that rural households were falling into debt-traps on account of getting treatment at private hospitals.

The report said that 25 per cent took loans or depended on 'borrowings' for medical attention in rural areas, while in the case of urban folk, it was 18 per cent.

The report has also stated that about 84 per cent of the Indian population doesn't get benefits of any government-run health insurance scheme and fall prey to exploitative private healthcare service providers.

According to the report, only 16 per cent of the total population got the benefits of health insurance in rural areas, while the percentage of people getting insurance cover in urban areas stood at 18.
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