PM to be briefed on economy on Friday

The PMEAC in its February report had projected an 8.2% economic growth for the current fiscal, while the budget had projected 8.5% GDP growth for this fiscal

Prime minister Manmohan Singh will be briefed on the state of the economy and the growth outlook by his economic advisory council on Friday, reports PTI.

Chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) C Rangarajan is expected to brief the prime minister about the gross domestic product (GDP) projections and the challenges before the economy, notably high inflation, ahead of the monetary policy review by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) scheduled for Tuesday next.

"We will submit the economic outlook for 2010-11 (to the prime minister) on Friday," Mr Rangarajan told newsmen here this evening.

The PMEAC in its February report had projected an 8.2% economic growth for the current fiscal, while the budget had projected 8.5% GDP growth for this fiscal. In the meantime, different agencies, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have projected much higher growth numbers for 2010. The fund last week had projected a full 9.5% GDP growth this calendar year.

However, the key challenge before the government and the central bank is to tame both the core inflation which was ruling at 10.55% in June and food inflation at 12.81% in the second week of July.

The RBI is expected to announce a second hike in its short term interest rates in less than a month. "They (RBI) may raise policy rates by another 25 basis points. Inflation continues to be the biggest worry," PMEAC member Govinda Rao told newsmen today.

Though inflation remains a big worry for the government, widespread rains have improved the prospects of prices coming down, particularly of the food items.

Yesterday cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar had said inflation was likely to drop to 5%-6% by December-end and the economic growth would accelerate to 8.5% during the current fiscal.

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India, EU officials to meet in September on drug seizure issue

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.

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Who will iron out the chinks in the health insurance business?

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.

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COMMENTS

Gayatri Mohanan T

6 years ago

Truly said, claim settlements are delayed. even for 4 to 6 months. Correct measures have been taken by withdrawing cashless facility. I always ask my client not to disclose about the mediclaim policy and ask them to pay the bill. more clarity should be provided in the policy document about the charges, which disease is covered, period of waiting etc. thanks for the news. Inhouse claim settlement is much much better than TPA.

D B DESAI

6 years ago

A TPA was actually unwanted. It caused additional cost of 6% on the policyholder. The insurance companies should serve the policy holders directly. All it requires is willingness to do new, proper and near to perfect things in a speedy manner. Even if there is no cashless facility, the claims should be settled speedily. There are people outside the big metros willing to have mediclaim but they simply think that insurance companies are not there to pay them. I am an agent. I have good experience in getting settled claims on cashless and reimbursement basis. But I get responses from doctors, advocates, chartered accountants that insurance companies do not pay. Apart from cash less facility there are other issues like information on the product, policy document, 24x7 access to the policyholder and communication with the policy holders. These are easy to handle things for the companies. I feel what lacks is genuine urge and commitment.

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