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COVID hospitalisation expenses equal to average Indian worker's 7-month pay: Study

Employing the government-capped prices, the study computed that households must have spent more than Rs 64,000 crore on testing and hospitals between April 2020 to June 2021

The unpublished paper on cost and affordability of COVID testing and treatment in India by the Public Health Foundation of India and the US-based Duke Global Health Institute is in the pre-print stage The unpublished paper on cost and affordability of COVID testing and treatment in India by the Public Health Foundation of India and the US-based Duke Global Health Institute is in the pre-print stage

The ICU hospitalisation cost for the treatment of coronavirus in India is cognate to what an average salaried, self-employed or casual worker earns in seven months or more, a study has concluded, adding that the load on a casual worker is equivalent to a year and three months of his income. 

The unpublished paper on cost and affordability of COVID testing and treatment in India by the Public Health Foundation of India and the US-based Duke Global Health Institute is in the pre-print stage, Times of India reported. 

Employing the government-capped prices, the study computed that households must have spent more than Rs 64,000 crore on testing and hospitals between April 2020 to June 2021. 

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It determined that the direct medical cost of treatment is huge and unsustainable for households and that a substantial segment would not be able to afford COVID treatment and service.

The cost of hospitalisation in an ICU, according to the study, outstrips the annual income of 86% of casual workers, over 50% of salaried individuals, and two-thirds of those who are self-employed. 

Even the expenditure of just isolation in a hospital surpasses the annual income of over 43% of casual workers, which is a quarter of the self-employed and 14% of the salaried. 

Even an RT-PCR test of around Rs 2,200 in the private sector would add up to what a casual worker earns in a week.

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"We have calculated the cost by taking an average of the capped prices announced by the various state governments. But these capped prices have several exclusions. So, the actual cost could be much higher than the estimate," Sakthivel Selvaraj, the lead author of the study, told the publication.

Notwithstanding several exclusions, the majority of price caps were flouted and/or bypassed. "The estimates focused on direct financial costs of COVID-19 care, the larger costs to individuals and the health care system were not considered. Even other additional direct costs such as transport cost, payment made to funeral expenses, etc are unaccounted for," the paper noted. 

It further added that the estimates should be deemed as "the low-end of the full costs of COVID-19 interventions".