BENGALURU: The Supreme Court on Monday passed an interim order directing the Centre to constitute a meeting of health ministers/secretaries of all states and union territories within a week and come up within a fortnight of the first meeting with a master plan on
healthcare for all
The order calls for a legislative and executive master plan which takes into account public health acts of various states and takes a cue from the National Health Bill 2009 which focuses on the marginalized sections of society.
The SC was acting on a plea from policy holders and the General Insurance Council, citing media reports of private hospitals exploiting patients and inflating bills. In its order, the SC admitted the General Insurance Council plea for regulating the private healthcare industry. The SC has impleaded all state governments/UTs suo moto as parties to this writ petition.
The National Health Bill 2009, section 14, guarantees every individual, a right to emergency treatment and care, irrespective of his inability to pay the requisite fee or charges with even private players being obliged to honour such a right.
The apex court observed that public health care is a state subject - the legislature for "affordable healthcare" is also state-specific; with some states having their laws like the Madras Public Health Act, Andhra Pradesh healthcare Act, etc. The only pan-India legislative attempt was the non-enacted National Health Bill 2009, which has clearly defined the concept of "affordable healthcare in a pandemic," observed SC.
SC said it is incumbent on the Centre to act in line with the spirit of the National Health Bill 2009 and "Provide free and universal access to
health care services and ensure that there shall not be any denial of healthcare....governments have an immediate duty to prioritize the most vulnerable and marginalized."
Within two weeks of the first meeting, the SC directed the states/UTs to collect data and submit to the Centre - which the Centre will examine and submit a report to the court. The Supreme Court will examine this report in four weeks during the next hearing.