Seriously, the bill can make you ill

Once at the hospital, he was admitted and his niece started filling in the forms required for insurance holders. But to Ramakrishna’s misfortune, a recent directive from his insurance agency had ruled out cashless transactions and he had to pay money initially which would be reimbursed by the insurance company. This is where the real problem started.

“The hospital knew we had insurance, but they asked us to deposit a huge sum and at that moment, we were not in a position to do so. They blatantly told us that if we did not pay the full amount, they would not go ahead with any treatment. It was a nightmare,” recalls the niece, Pavitra.

Everyone has such a story or similar ones to relate about themselves or someone close to them who has been through an ordeal at hospitals. This is not the case with large and reputed hospitals alone. Even small nursing homes are no less guilty of overcharging, prescribing a plethora of tests and leaving the patient in more pain than the medical condition warrants.

“If you have no insurance, then only God can help you,” says Pavitra. “There are so many tests and charges that there is no way to assess if these are really required. When we go to a particular hospital, it is on the doctor’s recommendation. But the doctor does not bother to check if all these procedures are really required since he would be operating in several hospitals. He really has no say in the hospital’s methods of charging,” she adds.
It is not exactly easy to get away if you are covered under insurance either. “It is usually one-and-a-half times more than what it would normally be if you are covered under insurance,” says Aparna, an advertising professional.

In the aftermath of her delivery at a hospital located on Airport Road, she suffered a seizure. Immediately, she was recommended for an MRI. The doctor told Aparna that the seizure could be easily explained, but she would suggest an MRI anyway.

“I had just given birth. I was very tired and I did not want to go through an MRI unless absolutely essential. But all the doctors asked why I was bothered since I was covered under insurance.”

She ended up shelling out about Rs 85,000 for the delivery. “I am sure that if I did not have insurance, I would have paid less than Rs 50,000.”

Another way of making money is through rooms at hospitals. Luxury, special, semi-special, the categories are numerous and available at whopping costs. Hospitals offer ‘packages’ for certain days of stay depending on the room you opt for. In a leading oncology hospital in the City, the pain of the family members dealing with their relative’s cancer is only matched by the fat bill they have to pay for the rooms.

The bill for the treatment and four days of stay at the hospital starts at Rs 50,000 for the general ward, jumps to Rs 65,000 for semi-special and easily reaches a lakh rupees for the special rooms.

“It is not as if there is a drastic change in the facilities in the rooms. It is the same thing in all the rooms, except that it is a patient per room at the highest category. There is nothing to warrant such high rates,” says Anil, whose father is being treated for cancer.

Even outpatients have to pay exorbitant charges. When Manjula’s four-year-old daughter fell and cut her forehead just above her eyebrows, she was rushed to a leading hospital in Tilaknagar. Manjula was advised to take her to a plastic surgeon, who insisted that her daughter would develop a scar if she did not undergo plastic surgery. Manjula insisted that the doctor stitch up the wound. The kind doctor obliged. He sutured the wound and charged her Rs 5,000 for the two stitches he had put! He later charged Rs 500 for removing the stitches.

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