Diagnostic labs demand high price for RT PCR tests

Business Covid-19 Health India Pandemic

Private diagnostic labs in Warangal and Hyderabad are charging around Rs.1,000 to 1,800 from patients which is beyond the government advised cap for an  RT PCR test.

Warangal: Private diagnostic labs were seen violating the government-fixed  price for Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT PCR) test in Warangal and Hyderabad. They were demanding Rs. 1,000 to 2,500 for each RT PCR test from the patients; while the government mandated price is Rs. 750. 

Ram, 21, (name changed) said that he was charged more for an RT PCR test by a local lab in Hanamkonda, Warangal  when he went to get tested for COVID-19. “I do not know the price fixed by the government for RT PCR tests. But they gave me a bill with their stamp with the money I paid, not a bill for anything less. One of my friends paid Rs. 1500 for a local lab for RT PCR but they sent the nasal swabs to Hyderabad tenet labs which cost them only Rs. 700. If they come and collect samples at home it is somewhere around Rs. 2000 to 3000,” he added. He further said that there are some third party organizations and labs which have tie ups with labs in Hyderabad like tenet labs and are charging more than what they actually pay to tenants for the test.

Shalini, 22, (name changed) said that she was charged more for an RT PCR test by a local lab in Hyderabad when she went to get tested for COVID-19. “When I called them and asked for the price they said that while the price was Rs. 750 , they will be charging Rs. 1,200. They said that in my invoice also it will show Rs. 750 but I had to pay Rs. 1,200,” she added.

“The price and demand for the RT PCR test has increased amid the second wave of COVID-19. For a few days it was Rs. 1,000, for home-testing it is  Rs. 1,500, while coming to a corporate hospital will  cost you a Rs. 1,800. Currently, we are charging Rs. 2,500 at  Medsun lab which is contracted with our hospital. The government also knows that private labs are charging more, but they have not said anything,” said Dr. Ashok (name changed).

Private labs are in high demand not only for RT PCR but also for Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) in Warangal. Cost of a Rapid Antigen Test is Rs. 500 while private labs were seen charging Rs. 1,500.

“Laboratories are charging a lot for COVID-19 tests in Warangal. My whole family took the Rapid Antigen Test from SR diagnostic in Warangal. They asked for Rs. 1,500 eachf for the test but when our cousin took the test in Hyderabad,  they charged him only Rs. 500,” said Harika, a resident of Hanamkonda in Warangal Urban district. 

However, Suresh, who works at Doctor Remedies Labs in Hyderabad, said they charge an additional Rs. 450 per RT PCR test sample than what is decided by the government. “To prevent the spread of Covid-19, we are sending our person to the houses to collect samples. That’s why we charge additional prices,” he added.

Bala Janakiraman, an economist based in Bangalore said that nowadays private labs are making black money in the name of these tests. When they give the report to the patients, it shows the  government-capped price, but they are asking patients for more money than what is shown in the report. “This is a big scam in India now; it is not only economically incorrect but also not correct from the humanitarian point of view,” he added.