A leading Mumbai-based surgeon (who prefers to be anonymous) tells the inside story about mediclaim lacuna based on real life experience. Excerpts of the interview:
Moneylife (ML): Can you share real life health insurance issues that you have come across?
A. Many insurers now insist on filing the claim in seven days. Suppose a patient gets discharged from a high-end hospital in Mumbai, the customer needs to make an application to get a copy of indoor papers. Big accredited hospitals have stringent guidelines and hence take almost two to three days to get the papers organized before they can give a copy to the patient. Imagine a senior citizen who has been discharged and his equally old wife looking after him (common scenario with kids living abroad). It is difficult for them to make rounds of hospital to get the papers. Insurance companies will ask them to produce a letter to justify the delay. Even after accepting the letter, new set of queries may be raised. You are lucky if you receive the claim payment after six months.
I personally operated my own family member for which I do not receive any doctor's fees. The claim was for other charges for implants, consumables, etc. We have an insurance scheme run by our doctors' association where the claims get settled easily because we have a clause in which the committee doctor's word is final. All the papers were organized and sent as per schedule. It took me five months to get the money back. I did not have to fight because our association personnel do it for me, but the insurance company delayed the process for three months saying the claim was filed after seven days.
There was Rs4,000 deduction for reasons like use of a thermometer, dressing material, etc. I could have easily got that money if I had fought; it was just wrong to cut money for using a thermometer. I did not think it was worthwhile to spend time on this small amount, but this is a trick wherein if you cut small amount after delaying the payment and the claimant is not in a mood to fight.
ML: Third party administrators (TPAs) have been accused of many health insurance problems. What is your take?
A. The TPA system has spoilt everything. A TPA appoints BAMS/LCEH qualified doctors to verify the documents. Interestingly if a homeopath writes an allopathic drug he can get punished according the Supreme Court ruling for "cross pathy" practice but the same person can dictate terms to a qualified surgeon like me and question my treatment plan?
The corruption levels in TPA are phenomenal. You pay an X amount and all your bills get cleared, you do not and they will harass you no end. I will give a real example. I had a patient who needed surgery as per a MRI. The surgery was planned, but he disappeared for a few days and then came back saying he wants to do another MRI. I asked him the reason. He said he got himself insured now and wanted to claim the surgical cost; the old MRI would be a hindrance.
I told him that insurance company will not pay the claim. He said that he will bear the cost if the claim is rejected. We went ahead and got another MRI (within six weeks of the first). I told him that even if he would get a cashless approval it will be for only X amount and the rest he would have to pay. He had the same answer "Doctor, just put your total cost and I will manage the rest".
We went ahead and did his surgery. We got an approval from the TPA in six hours for an amount which was Rs50,000 more than the amount they would have sanctioned for the same surgery in the same hospital for another insured person. I was shocked. I finally asked him how he had managed all this. He simply said "Doctor, I have a car rental business and I insure all my cars with this company, so they just cannot refuse to entertain me". He had no cover when he got injured, but easily got cashless approval from the TPA for an amount higher than the procedure cost.
ML: What are some other issues with health insurance that insurers should focus on?
A. I performed one surgery with new technology instead of longer version which would have needed hospitalisation. The patient was fine after the surgery and hence went home in eight hours. She then realized that she had a mediclaim and submitted her papers for a claim. She was refused a claim saying that she did not stay for 24 hours. I wrote to the TPA on her behalf and explained that the procedure did not require a stay and I was actually saving the insurance company a lot of money by doing a surgery like this. It fell on deaf ears. The patient's husband was resourceful and got after the TPA. He got the claim of Rs18,000 settled after eight months of fight.
Insurance companies cover cataract procedure; it shows that they are selective of which day-care procedures they want to cover. The bill for a day-care is much less than for admissions for over 24 hours. I have repeatedly asked the CEOs of insurance companies as to why they disallow day-care surgery when it is actually cheaper for them. They keep saying we are updating the schedules, but in reality nothing like that happens. Both the patient and the treating doctor are harassed to no end, which makes the patients feel that they should cheat; I fully agree with them.
ML: What can customers do take care of health expenses apart from mediclaim?
A. I would advise people to park some money in a mutual fund and build up a fund for medical emergencies. I agree that it would take time but once a corpus of say Rs5 lakh builds up, it would be a good tool to use against the medical illnesses.
Read first part of the interview here: http://moneylife.in/article/pharma-sales-is-the-main-business-for-hospitals/26739.html
If any luggage is not handed over to railway administration against a proper receipt, the Railways will not be responsible for any theft or loss of the luggage, says the State Consumer Redressal Commission
Mumbai: The Maharashtra Consumer Redressal Commission has observed that if any luggage is not handed over to railway administration against a proper receipt, the Railways will not be responsible for any theft or loss of the luggage, reports PTI.
The commission was hearing an appeal filed by a Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) of Central Railway against the order of the district consumer redressel forum which had directed the DRM to pay Rs1.35 lakhs to US resident Anagha Prasanna Walimbe for loss of her gold ornaments.
"It is not stated anywhere that the suitcase containing ornaments was under lock and key and when it was opened after leaving Pune railway station and reaching residence," the bench presided by commission member SR Khanzode observed recently.
Khanzode also observed that the complaint of theft lodged with the Railway Police was closed and made final as ornaments were not traceable.
In the absence of any cognate evidence placed on record by Walimbe, the railway administration shall not be held responsible for negligence or rendering deficient service to provide security/ protection to the luggage in the custody of the passenger, though travelling on a reserved ticket.
The Solapur district consumer forum had directed the railways to pay Rs1.35 lakhs along with 9% interest after Walimbe filed a complaint saying that she travelled in the reserved second class on 25 December 1998 from Solapur to Pune.
In her complaint, she said her luggage was kept under lock and key with her and after reaching Pune railway station, she took an autorickshaw to reach home. When she verified her luggage at night she found that her gold ornaments were missing from the suitcase.
She filed a case with the Railway police the next day.
Walimbe had alleged deficiency in service on the part of the railway administration and said there was no police bandobast or ticket collector to take care of her belongings of the passengers.
However, railways said she did not deposit her luggage with the administration. Accordingly, she did not take a receipt.
According to Shailesh Gandhi, who is retiring tomorrow, rising pendency of cases with Information Commissions would leave the citizens disenchanted with the transparency law
New Delhi: As he prepares to demit office tomorrow after a nearly four-year stint at the Central Information Commission, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi feels that biggest threat to the Right to Information (RTI) regime in the country is from Information Commissions themselves, reports PTI.
Gandhi also says rising pendency of cases with Information Commissions would leave the citizens disenchanted with the transparency law.
The 65-year old Information Commissioner, who paid interns from his own pocket for ensuring quick and efficient processing of case files, said in an interview to PTI that RTI faces three major threats - lowest from the government, then judicial processes and highest threat is from Information Commissions themselves.
"The highest threat is from the Commissions where already there are cases that are pending for two and three years for a law that is seven years old. If it continues like this, in the next five years the pendency is likely to be three to five years at which point the common man will run away from this just as he has run away from most of judicial and quasi judicial processes. And if that happens, RTI is dead. RTI will continue to remain just for commissions and commissioners which would be very sad," Gandhi said.
An entrepreneur-turned-activist and IIT alumnus Gandhi, would be demitting his office tomorrow after nearly four year stint with the Central Information Commission during which he decided 16,000 petitions, maximum among all Information Commissioners.
During his tenure, Gandhi pushed for some progressive ideas in the CIC like Citizens' charter, digitisation of records, paperless offices, rationalisation of administrative man-power to ensure pendency of cases is reduced but did not get much support from within the Commission.
Gandhi had underlined the problem of increasing pendency of appeals and complaints at the Commission and had suggested that panel should make a commitment to dispose 90% of cases within three-five months.
He has also warned if pendency kept increasing like this, the waiting period would increase to five years.
Gandhi said he has been writing within the Commission on the pendency of issues but did not get "adequate response".
"Negligible ideas have been accepted. I don't think people are willing to accept this issue at all. There has been unwillingness to face up this," he said.
Gandhi said he hoped that the Commission would make a commitment that the pendency would be between three to four months, if not now, in the next three years, five years.
"I have proposed this in the Citizen's Charter which initially had found favour but ultimately the Commission refused to accept the Citizen's charter. It has not been willing to make commitments to citizens," Gandhi said.
He said everybody recognises pendency issue but the general attitude is someone else's problem and government would do something.
The maverick Commissioner who did not hesitate to issue show cause notice to the CIC officials with regards to an RTI plea said, "We need to bring accountability to all these Commissions, if we have to have a better government, a better nation. Nation is spending lots on these."
"Most of these Commissions, again if I broaden it to slightly beyond Commissions, I would say Judicial and quasi judicial processes in India are operating as if time is of no consequence. We blame political class and bureaucrats but if we do not correct this we cannot get any justice.
"Nobody who does anything wrong needs to fear anything and he can live life without any worry or fear," Gandhi said.
When asked about future plans, Gandhi said he would start working as RTI activist from Mumbai after a two month vacation with family.
When asked about the best and worst public authorities he dealt with during his tenure as Information Commissioner, Gandhi said Municipal Corporation of Delhi and CIC remained most difficult to deal with, while External Affairs Ministry, Delhi University and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital were more receptive to his decisions.
Gandhi, who was about to start an inquiry against a Commission's officer but has been slapped with a litigation from him in personal capacity, said the implication of this case would be that Commission could be brought to standstill by any public information officer (PIO) or applicant making charges against a Commissioner personally.
"I am just wondering whether the rule of law can really do well if we do not respect various statutory authorities. If any kind of charges can be made against anyone, can we get a better government, can we get a better Nation? It's a worry that I am having," he said.
Gandhi also expressed concerns over the good orders issued by the transparency panels, which are getting stayed by the courts.
"Lot of progressive orders are getting stayed by the courts and the way our judicial system operates, you can easily spend eight to 10 years in courts," he said.
Gandhi said most government officers and those in power are not serious about RTI.
"They have a very non-serious attitude...Unfortunately, my finding is even the Commissions, I don't think are very serious about RTI. This is sad. But I think citizens are very serious and they need to act and put pressure on all these bodies," he said.