Although the government remains concerned over surging inflation, it is optimistic that food prices will cool down over the next few months
The government on Wednesday described the surge in inflation as disturbing, but was also confident that food prices that were fuelling the price rise would ease in a few months—by the time the rabi crop reaches the market, reports PTI.
On the sidelines of a seminar on transfer pricing, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters, “That (rising inflation) is a matter of concern, no doubt. I am afraid the 8.5% rise in (the) wholesale price index is disturbing.”
He, however, exuded confidence that the inflation rate will ease in the next few months.
Inflation rose to over a 13-month high of 8.56% in January from 7.31% a month ago, driven mainly by higher food prices.
Food inflation rose for the third successive week and moved closer to 18% in the week ended 30th January.
The spiralling rise in food prices has been the primary reason behind surging inflation. It has forced the government to take necessary action on the supply side but it will take some time for the measures to take effect.
"We have taken adequate measures on the supply side which will take some time to have the pressing impact on rising prices, particularly of essential commodities. I do hope that over a period of few months, it will be possible to have a moderate rate of inflation," Mr Mukherjee added.
A full-blown war between doctors and TPAs over fees and unpaid dues has left hospitalised patients stranded. Its time regulators stepped in
Policy-holders who have been admitted to Mumbai hospitals are trapped in the midst of a raging battle between city-based doctors and third-party administrators (TPAs), who facilitate medical insurance. This is due to doctors’ unhappiness with the low consultancy fees being allowed by a couple of TPAs for reimbursement under medical insurance plans.
Miffed over the outrageously low rates and unpaid dues from these TPAs, about 1,500 nursing homes and doctors under the banner of the Association of Medical Consultants (AMC), recently decided to boycott TPAs completely. This drastic measure meant that patients in hospitals covered by these TPAs could not avail of cashless facilities, putting them under severe difficulty.
KG Krishnamoorthy, chief operating officer, Future Generali India Insurance explains, “It appears that some of the TPAs have gone ahead and offered some rates to doctors. According to doctors, these rates are far lower than what they charge, which means that the TPAs have not reached an agreed rate. From the doctors’ side too, some of them keep on charging different rates depending upon the type of clients. This has been a practice in hospitals whenever a patient is admitted, whether he is insured or not and which type of room he takes.
Sometimes the rates the hospitals charge are unreasonable. The TPAs are trying to control the claimed cost. There are complaints from hospitals also that there is a huge backlog in the money TPAs are supposed to pay up.”
Apparently, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) sought to soothe frayed nerves in a hurriedly-called meeting between the doctors and TPAs. The doctors have given the concerned TPAs a month to clear pending dues and rework tariffs altogether.
Doctors and TPAs have been at loggerheads for a long time now; the crisis has only now reached boiling point. Lalit Kapoor, legal advisor of AMC reveals, “Consultants are facing a major problem, with the money owed to them not being given on time. As per the agreement, they are supposed to pay up within 30 days. But they don’t. They take at least two-three months to clear their dues. Sometimes, no payments are received.”
Putting the onus of payment delays on insurance companies, a senior official from e-Meditek, one of the boycotted TPAs said, “After receiving the files for payments, we process the claim. After processing we upload the details to the insurance companies and then the claims are paid by the insurance companies.
Most of the time, the payment from the insurance companies comes (in) late.”
He added, “We raise the bill on the insurance companies and from that the float is replenished to us, out of which we have to pay to the hospital. Usually it takes seven days from discharge. After receiving the file it doesn’t take more than seven days to settle the claim from our part. After that, most of the times, the insurance companies create the delays and then there is a lack of proper documentation which increases the delay.”
On the other hand, patients also face a lot of hassles in getting authorisation letters from the TPAs. Mr Kapoor alleged, “TPAs are supposed to give the authorisation within 24 hours. But this does not happen and patients are left fighting with the hospital officials.” He told Moneylife that the AMC has outlined fixed tariffs that they expect to be adhered to by the TPAs, failing which AMC could boycott its agreements with them.
The absence of regulation and government control in this area has only worsened the situation. KG Krishnamoorthy reveals, “There has been a request from insurance companies and TPAs to have some kind of standardisation on healthcare rates and even rating of hospitals. But no such rules have come in so far. We have requested the government and even tried to work with the regulator to put something in place. This is going on for the last six months but unless some intervention happens from the government (health ministry), the matter will go out of control. It is already outside the control of insurance companies.”
All this has even forced several insurance companies to do away with TPAs completely. “We have eliminated TPAs five years back to work efficiently and to lessen the turnaround time for the customers in cashless claims,” said Akshay Mehrotra, head of marketing, Bajaj Allianz.
It is now up to the IRDA to take a definite stand on the matter and put in place stringent regulations to check such unhealthy practices at hospitals and standardise tariff structures. Failure to do so will give sleepless nights to patients with cashless policies.
Calculation of brokerage by ICICIdirect at the end of the quarter has made customers an angry lot
ICICIdirect’s refund of excess brokerage remitted at the end of the quarter under its I-Saver plan is not going down well with its customers. ICICIdirect recently launched its two new brokerage plans—I-Secure (flat brokerage at 0.55% of total turnover) and I-Saver (slab-wise brokerage based on transaction volume/turnover).
Under the I-Saver plan, ICICIdirect charges 0.75% of the total traded volume (applicable for turnover of less than Rs10 lakh in a quarter) or a minimum of 0.25% (on turnover of more than Rs5 crore), whichever is higher.
The charges vary depending on the range of traded volumes. For instance, in the range of Rs10 lakh-Rs25 lakh, brokerage will be 0.70%; for Rs25 lakh-Rs50 lakh (0.55%); Rs50 lakh-Rs1 crore (0.45%); Rs1 crore-Rs2 crore (0.35%) and Rs2 crore-Rs5 crore (0.30%).
If an investor opts for a slab-wise plan, the entity charges the highest brokerage slab of 0.75% irrespective of the transaction volume (single or multiple) in a single day and recalculates the correct brokerage only at the end of the quarter.
“It is hard to believe that with financial systems around the globe becoming more and more automated and up-to-date, ICICI Securities is not able to pick up the right brokerage slab and calculate correct brokerage amount on the orders that were successfully executed earlier during the same day,” said Gyanesh Gupta, a customer of ICICIdirect.
“If any extra brokerage is charged and if it comes under that slab, it is credited in the customer’s account in the form of incentive in the next quarter,” said an ICICIdirect official.
Moreover, existing customers of ICICIdirect were made to switch to the I-Saver plan and there was no way they could change the plan unless they informed the company.
“I got an email from the company saying that my trading scheme had shifted to I-Saver and I had to use that plan for a quarter,” said an ICICIdirect customer, preferring anonymity.
Mr Gupta also pointed out that although ICICIdirect runs a user-friendly website, its brokerage charges are among the highest compared to other brokerage houses. He has raised this issue with ICICI Securities since the last two months, but officials have been giving him a standard excuse of ‘system limitations’. Investors are made to wait until the end of a quarter to get the refund of excess brokerage that they have been charged previously.
“Whenever you do a transaction, the brokerage is debited on a daily basis which is valid for one quarter. The brokerage charges are charged on the total traded value (buy and sell),” added the official.