India had dragged the 27-member EU to the World Trade Organisation, protesting against the confiscation of its off-patent drugs by some European nations while they were en-route to destinations in Africa and Latin America
In an effort to resolve a dispute on seizure of Indian drugs by some European countries, officials of the European Union (EU) and the Indian government will meet again at Geneva in September, at the instance of the WTO, reports PTI.
"In the first round of consultations, basic information was exchanged. In the next meeting, we will try to seek the source of complaints that led to the seizure of consignments," an official said in New Delhi.
India had dragged the 27-member EU to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), protesting against the confiscation of its off-patent drugs by some European countries while they were en-route to export destinations in Africa and Latin America.
In accordance with a WTO rule, both the parties were asked to engage in formal bilateral consultations as part of efforts taken to resolve the problem.
If the issue still remains unresolved, it would be referred to the dispute settlement panel of the WTO.
In the last few years, customs authorities of Europe — especially the Netherlands — had seized several drug consignments belonging to Indian companies while they were en route to their export destinations.
The Dutch authorities had alleged violation of their patent laws, even though the Indian government maintained that they were off-patent drugs.
India's $22-billion pharmaceutical industry gets 45% of its revenue from the export of generic drugs.
Every stakeholder in the insurance business - hospitals, policyholders, pharmacists, TPAs and insurers - must be put through checks and balances
According to M Ramadoss, chairman and managing director of The New India Assurance Co Ltd, "Insurance companies have been witnessing inflated, fraudulent, and unwarranted hospitalisation claims when the patient had declared that he/she has insurance cover and wishes to go for cashless treatment."
There is a complete lack of transparency in hospital charge structure irrespective of whether the patient has insurance or not. This is a big impediment for patients. Some of them have packages for certain procedures but even those packages have lots of extras to be charged "on actual" basis. There are no details on how much these "actual" extras would be. Many hospitals charge at a higher rate based on the quality of the room. Why would procedure cost or anaesthesia cost increase for patients in a better quality of room? It is obviously because "quality of room" signifies willingness of the patient to pay more money for medical expenses. In an attempt to standardise hospital rates, public sector insurers are moving towards a Preferred Provider Network (PPN). For more, see: (http://www.moneylife.in/article/8/7387.html).
Another problem faced by patients is getting billing details at the time of discharge. According to Mr Ramadoss, "The patient is in a hurry to go home. If the patient asks for details, he is told it may take four hours. The patient is certainly discouraged to wait and at times made to sign on blank papers. We would like patients to assist us by bargaining to get a better value proposition from the provider and report any aberration to us for corrective action. It will certainly help if patients are alert in checking hospital bills." Patients care less if the bill amount is lesser than the insurance limit. What they don't realise is that higher claims will mean higher premium next year and lesser coverage for any medical need later in the same year.
There are rising cases of fraud in the system. Mr Ramadoss told Moneylife, "We have ongoing work to check and audit the system. At one time we did a three-month investigation in different cities. We found cases of bogus nursing homes, bogus bills from hospitals and pharmacists as well as fraudulent claims by policyholders. We had to file police cases. We have to keep a check if the patient admitted in a hospital is the same as the one who is the policyholder, verify pre-existing conditions and ensure the treatment given is in line of medical need. This does add to investigation cost."
For a long time, hospitals and doctors have argued that when it comes to payment of the cost incurred on medical procedures, insurance companies don't pay hospitals on time. Delayed payments have been a major issue with hospitals, who have been complaining that they have been getting their dues after nearly six to eight months. Hospitals have been blaming Third Party Administrators (TPAs) for these delays, saying that the intermediaries keep the float given by insurers and delay payments. Even insurers have complained that TPAs are not using these funds to settle patients' claims.
Mr Ramadoss says, "There have been some regional offices that were delinquent which resulted in slackness in payments, while some TPAs have been indifferent when it comes to paying doctors on time. We are moving towards a centralised payment system that will streamline the process. We have an external agency to audit TPAs. All their files are under scrutiny. We would be starting our own TPA entity in a year's time. All the four PSU insurers are together. We have not finalised an outside partner. It may be in-house, but a separate company. It will help to have better control over claims."
Over the past few weeks, the healthcare industry has been in turmoil after cashless facility was revoked all of a sudden from leading hospitals. It was done by insurers one fine day without bringing the facts out in public first and giving notice and providing detailed statistics behind their claims that hospitals overcharge patients with cashless facilities. According to Mr Ramadoss, "We are technically and legally not violating (the) agreement with policyholders because we specify in the policy that hospitals have to agree to our terms. I don't see any harm to our reputation. On the contrary, I have received congratulatory emails for (our) PPN initiative."The changes in cashless facility by public sector insurers have certainly made policyholders anxious. It is also a fact that grievances for healthcare insurance are rising and is now more than grievances for motor insurance. There have been numerous complaints to the healthcare industry ombudsman.
Leakages are present at different places in the system. All we need to do is fix it quickly as it will only get worse if we are unable to keep it in check.
The EGoM will also discuss a proposal to increase the price of sugar sold through ration shops, as the government has increased the levy price — the price it pays to mills to buy sugar
An Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on food is scheduled to meet on 26th July to consider imposing import duty on refined sugar and the sale of an additional 30 lakh tonnes of wheat and rice through ration shops, reports PTI.
The EGoM, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, will consider the food ministry's proposal to impose 15%-20% import duty on refined (white) sugar, sources said.
In the last meeting, the ministerial panel had deferred a decision on imposition of duty due to soaring food inflation, which is still high at 12.81%.
The sugar industry had been demanding an import duty on white sugar to protect local mills from sliding prices. Sugar prices have declined sharply to Rs30 a kg in the retail market of the national capital from Rs48 a kg in mid-January.
Sources said the EGoM will also discuss a proposal to increase the price of sugar sold through ration shops, as the government has increased the levy price (the price it pays to mills to buy sugar) by around Rs4 a kg.
While the issue price is Rs13.5 per kg, the levy price has been fixed at an average of Rs17.57 a kg. The gap between the levy price and the issue price will result in a subsidy of over Rs1,000 crore.
The panel is also likely to consider increasing the CIP (central issue price) of wheat and rice supplied to families above the poverty line (APL) through the public distribution system.
APL families get wheat at Rs6.10 per kg and rice at Rs8.30 a kg.
Food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said yesterday that the Centre plans to sell an additional 25-30 lakh tonnes of wheat and rice through ration shops at cheaper rates.
"I am going to the EGoM to discuss about offering 25-30 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat to the state government for supply under PDS. This will be over and above the existing allocation," Mr Pawar had said, adding that states have been demanding an increase in foodgrains allocation.
Food Corporation of India (FCI), the nodal agency for procurement and distribution of foodgrains, has nearly 60 million tonnes of wheat and rice in its buffer stock and the agency is facing a space crunch.
In May this year, the Centre had announced the sale of an additional 30 lakh tonnes of wheat and rice through ration shops during the June-November period at Rs8.42 and Rs11.85 per kg, respectively.
Although the rates for the additional foodgrains were far below the acquisition cost, they were slightly more than what BPL and APL families pay for their regular quota. BPL families get wheat at Rs4.15 per kg and rice at Rs5.65 per kg under the regular quota. At present, BPL families get 35 kg of rice and wheat every month, while APL households can avail 10 kg on an average.