Free Covid-19 Tests At Private Labs Only For Poor As Supreme Court Modifies Order
Cameras lined up outside the Supreme Court of India. (Source: PTI)

Free Covid-19 Tests At Private Labs Only For Poor As Supreme Court Modifies Order

The Supreme Court modified its order seeking free coronavirus testing by private laboratories to only cover beneficiaries under the prime minister’s health insurance scheme and any other categories of poor decided by the government.

Free testing for Covid-19 shall be available to persons eligible under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana implemented by the Government of India, and any other category of economically weaker sections as notified by the government for free testing, a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan ordered.

The top court also asked the central government to consider if any other categories of “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’’.

The government has to file its reply within a week. Meanwhile, private labs can continue to charge all those who are eligible to pay for tests.

The Supreme Court, in an interim order on April 8, ordered that private laboratories conducted free Covid-19 tests and directed the government to compensate them. A number of modification applications were filed seeking a change in the order.

Some private laboratories argued the Rs 4,500 fee fixed by the Indian Council of Medical Research was on the moderate side meant to cover the costs. If the tests are made free, it would be difficult for them to conduct the tests as the kits are imported and require a substantial expense. The central government informed the top court that around 10.7 crore people are covered under the Ayushman Bharat scheme and would get cashless tests.

After hearing all the parties, the top court modified its order. The case Is likely to come up for hearing next week.

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