Several private hospitals empanelled under the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) and Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) have decided to suspend cashless services to the beneficiaries of the healthcare programme if their outstanding dues not paid by the Centre. Medical associations like Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Association of Healthcare Providers (India) (AHP) have given one-month period to the government to pay the dues.

CGHS and ECHS patients are served on a subsidized cost and these schemes were intended to serve vulnerable populations. Suspending these two services would hit the beneficiaries hard and in total, over 80 lakh people (approx 32 lakh of CGHS beneficiaries and 52 ECHS beneficiaries) are likely get affected by it.

But the country’s healthcare industry is passing through a crisis. Non-payment of legitimate dues by the government has pushed the hospitals to the brink of unsustainability, and it is taking a toll on the day to day functioning of the hospitals.

The hospitals have claimed that the reimbursement rates for various medical procedures under the CGHS were to be revised every two years but they have not been revised since 2014, without giving any reason, whereas hospital expenses continue to grow to match inflation related expenses.

“Rates and agreements between CGHS and hospitals were supposed to be revised every two years, but CGHS have been unilaterally postponing it without giving any reason. Studies carried out by various institutes show that rates of many procedures under CGHS do not cover even the operating cost incurred by hospitals.” said R.V. Asokan, Secretary General, Indian Medical Association (IMA).

As per reports, the hospitals stand to lay off their employees and if the crisis prevails, it is feared that lakhs of medical employees may lose their jobs. This of course, is will hit the patient safety, leading to increase in mortality rate.

While addressing the media, IMA President Santanu Sen said, “Considering that 70 per cent of OPD and 60 per cent of IPD patients are being taken care of by private healthcare providers, the likely disruption of health services due to financial crunch is going to impact the national healthcare scenario more so in tertiary care where private sector provides more than 85 per cent of such services.”

“It is, therefore, time that the government take urgent stock of ground realities and engages with private sector to assess the genuine concerns and save the industry from collapse/slow down,” Sen added.

He further said that “healthcare besides having social obligation has potential to be the largest employer and it is therefore of utmost importance that government and private sector get in to dialogue and find lasting solution paving way to achieve universal health coverage through Ayushman Bharat.”

(With input from agencies)