THE Supreme Court today modified it’s April 8 that had mandated free testing for Covid19 by private laboratories. On an application filed by a Delhi based doctor, the court has now clarified that free testing for COVID-19 should be available to persons eligible under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana as already implemented by the Government of India, and any other category of economically weaker sections of the society as notified by the Government for free testing for COVID-19.
The court suggested that the Centre may also consider as to whether any other categories of the weaker sections of the society e.g. workers belonging to low-income groups in the informal sectors, beneficiaries of Direct Benefit Transfer, etc. apart from those covered under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana are also eligible for the benefit of free testing and issue appropriate guidelines in this regard within a period of one week.
It added that the private Labs could continue to charge the payment for testing of COVID-19 from persons who are able to make payment of testing fee as fixed by ICMR.
“The Government of India, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare may issue necessary guidelines for reimbursement of cost of free testing of COVID-19 undertaken by private Labs and necessary mechanism to defray expenses and reimbursement to the private Labs”, said the court.
Court also emphasized that the Central Government give appropriate publicity to ensure coverage to all those eligible.
“The order dated 08.04.2020 intended to make testing in private Labs of COVID-19 free for economically weaker sections of the society who were unable to afford the payment of testing fee as fixed by ICMR for COVID-19. We further clarify that the order never intended to make testing free for those who can afford the payment of testing fee fixed by the ICMR for COVID-19”, a two-judge bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S Ravindra Bhat said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana, about 10.7 crore poor and vulnerable families which means approximately 50 crores beneficiaries are covered under the scheme and they can avail the benefit of free of cost COVID-19 test even in the private labs. He further told the court that the beneficiaries under the scheme would get cashless COVID-19 test in private labs.