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.