From the Viewsroom

Cataract surgeries, a money spinner

A Srinivas | Updated on October 15, 2019 Published on October 15, 2019

Cataract should be under Ayushman Bharat; lens under price control

The cost of cataract surgery, a leading cause of blindness for Indians above the age of 50, deters one in five cataract patients from going in for the procedure. Rampant overcharging in the case of cataract procedures is a huge issue, rendered worse by the fact that cataract is no longer covered by the Centre’s flagship insurance scheme — Ayushman Bharat Yojana.

Recently, the Maharashtra Food and Drugs Administration alerted the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation on rampant overcharging in the case of cataract procedures. According to reliable estimates — such as those put out by a reputed charitable eye hospital chain in Tamil Nadu — the lens is available for less than ₹1,000; even if a really expensive lens is used, the cost of the procedure should not exceed ₹10,000, and can go down to below ₹3,000. But even neighbourhood eye clinics charge upwards of ₹25,000. Even as IOLs have been bracketed with stents for being scandalously expensive, the PM Jan Arogya Yojana (or ‘Ayushman’) has dropped cataract from its list of ailments for which it would refinance hospitals (in this case, ₹6,500-10,500). Private eye clinics, which were opposed to the Ayushman Bharat price ceiling, can now operate without restraint. The Centre should restore cataract into the PMJAY fold, resisting lobby groups. While IOL pricing can be brought under watch of the National Pharmaceuticals Pricing Authority, that will not prevent the rampant overcharging through hospitalisation costs. This really matters, as 60 per cent of the surgeries are carried out by private clinics.

The success rate of 58 per cent reported in the four-year survey period is also disturbingly low. The reasons for this are not clear. What is obvious is that if 60 lakh cataract surgeries a year are not enough to bring down cataract-induced blindness, the approach needs to change. The State must directly provide low-cost and quality healthcare.

The writer is Senior Deputy Editor with BusinessLine

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Published on October 15, 2019
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