When a 53-year-old Gurugram resident tested positive for Covid-19 in early November, her foremost concern was the availability of a hospital bed in case her symptoms worsened. The Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) has been facing a shortage of hospital beds for a while now. And with the Indian capital seeing a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases recently, the shortage has gotten all the more acute more acute BBC News Delhi's Covid cases spike as temperatures drop and pollution rises Read more .

She explored her options; if she couldn’t be assured of a bed in a hospital, the next best thing was a homecare package. After some to and fro, she settled for one offered by Delhi-based private hospital chain Medanta. At Rs 4,900 ($70), it was the least expensive package available. The most expensive one was for Rs 21,900 ($300).

By the end of her 14-day quarantine period, her condition improved, but it came at a cost. She had ended up spending nearly 10X the amount she had paid upfront.  

Her bills, which The Ken studied, revealed that she had spent close to Rs 20,000 ($300) on a string of lab tests. A D-dimer test, used to study blood clotting, set her back by Rs 1,900 ($25); kidney and liver function tests cost Rs 1,200 ($16) and Rs 1,350 ($18); and a Ferritin test was for Rs 1,250 ($17). All of these tests were priced at least 50% higher than market rates. She spent another Rs 8,000 ($108) on several drugs, including a week-long course of Favipiravir, an antiviral drug. CT-scans cost her Rs 7,000 ($100).

Halfway through the quarantine, when the doctor ordered another round of tests, she decided to compare prices with other pathology labs. “I realised that these were overpriced at Medanta. I could get them at a fraction of that cost from [lab chain] Dr Lal Pathlabs,” the patient told The Ken. “The government regulates prices of RT-PCR RT-PCR RT-PCR test The COVID-19 RT-PCR test is a real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test or the detection of SARS-CoV-2 from throat and nose swabs , but what about blood tests like IL-6 and D-dimer? Why is it letting some hospitals get away by charging such high prices?” Medanta did not respond to The Ken’s questions about their pricing decisions. 

AUTHOR

Maitri Porecha

Maitri writes about everything health for The Ken. For close to 10 years now, she has navigated hospital corridors in her search for a good story. In a past life, when she was not a journalist, she used to teach French at her neighbourhood school. Also an avid fan of forensics, she is always up for decoding mysteries in her free time.

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