Fleecing sufferers

For far too long, the brazen avarice neatly structured in their bills and rates by a large proportion of private healthcare operators has gone unchecked, and unquestioned. Now, as the authorities grapple with the misery and tragedy that Covid-19 has unleashed, complaints of overcharging and undue demands by medical facilities are not only being taken seriously, but also acted upon promptly and stringently. Helplines are being set up, inquiries are being ordered, the hospitals have been asked to prominently display rate lists, the laboratories and diagnostic centres are under watch, and even a cap is being put on how much can be charged.

The medical fraternity has deservedly been lauded for its continuing service during the biggest human crisis of our times. Private enterprise is business, after all, and making money is a rightful endeavour which cannot be looked down upon. However, there can be no justification for what is unfair and unscrupulous either. This perhaps is an opportune moment for serious introspection and course correction. The captains of industry have always stepped in to do more than their bit when the situation demands. A new code of ethics is the need of the hour, and a professional audit of what is acceptable and what is not.

There is much to the argument that the only way to confront the fleecing of those in distress is by drastically augmenting government facilities, but the budgetary support and vision required for such a defining change have always missed the targets by wide margins. Hence, innovative ideas such as paying medical bills to employees only if they get treated in government facilities prove to be meaningless. The private sector is here to stay, and its role is crucial. The regulatory mechanism has been a letdown, and the loopholes have been exploited at the cost of patients. Covid-19’s one big lesson has been that empathy is the biggest asset. Every healthcare facilitator would have taken note of that

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