Supreme Court Queries Government on Legality of Imposing Uniform Rates in Private Hospitals

The Supreme Court questioned the legality of the government's move to enforce uniform rates in private hospitals. Justices Gavai and Mehta raised concerns, citing market dynamics. The case involves a petition challenging regulations on ophthalmological procedure rates.

The Supreme Court questioned the Central government's decision to set fixed rates for patient care in private hospitals across India, stating that such pricing should ideally be determined by market forces. Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta raised this concern while issuing a notice to the government in response to a petition challenging regulations on uniform rates for ophthalmological procedures.

The Court remarked, "How can there be uniform rates even in private hospitals? It all depends on market forces. What if there was uniform fees for lawyers appearing here?"

Representing one of the parties, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave criticized the regulations, stating they were "completely out of hand." The Central government was represented by Attorney General for India R Venkataramani, while the Indian Medical Association was represented by Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, and a group of private hospitals was represented by Senior Advocate Harish Salve.

In a related matter, a bench comprising Justices Sudhanshu Dhulia and Prasanna B Varale expressed disappointment that private hospitals, which were established on subsidized lands with the commitment to reserve some beds for the economically weaker sections, were not fulfilling their obligations. The bench remarked, "All these private hospitals they say, when getting subsidized land, that they will reserve at least 25 per cent beds for Economically Weaker Sections but it never happens. We have seen it many times.”

According to the petition filed by the All India Ophthalmological Society, the rates for specialized procedures should vary based on the location, as rates applicable in metropolitan cities may not be suitable for small remote villages.

Previously, the Supreme Court had issued a limited notice to the Attorney General and scheduled further consideration for April 17. Justice Dhulia had remarked, "But can you challenge a policy like this? You see, for example, health care rates in the northeast are very affordable and it will get affected."

Today, the case was combined with another pending case seeking directions to the Union government to establish hospital treatment rates in accordance with rules under the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010.