Top story: Foreigners in Mumbai are made to pay a 25% surcharge for medical care!!!
OK, it’s not a top story, but it sure feels like it when one has lived in Mumbai for several years, is a law abiding citizen, has paid his/her share of taxes, and is seeking the same level of medical care as any average Indian. The only difference is that when a foreigner gets the hospital bill, there is a 25% hike in the cost.
Several expats whom I have encountered have faced this problem in Mumbai, and I am assuming it is a disease that is spread across the rest of India. What is strange though, is while some hospitals have this 25% hike, other hospitals in Mumbai have not adopted this policy. Clearly, this hike is not a state regulated policy and has been conveniently utilized by certain hospitals who believe that foreigners should be paying a higher price than the locals. For instance, hospitals, such as Kokila Behn (in Aandheri) have this 25% surcharge, while others, such as Hiranandani (in Powai) and Seven Hills (in Andheri) and Breach Candy Hospital (in South Mumbai), do not impose such surcharges.
I am perplexed, even disturbed, by the idea that foreigners who are here on legal working visas or are even spouses of Indian citizens are mandated to pay more than the actual charge. One of my friends, though she is not an Indian citizen, is as good as being one because she posses the “PIO” (Person of Indian Origin), a life long Indian visa akin to the “Green Card” of the USA. Even she was asked to pay the surcharge of 25%. I am not entirely sure why some hospitals have this mandate, but it sure seems unfair and a serious case of discrimination and poor ethics.
When I lived in the USA, I never had to pay any “extra” fees or costs for any of the governmental services, be it the hospitals, Social Security, calling 911, my college fees, including my Federal and State taxes. I felt like I was treated no different from the locals, when it came to the above. I can understand that, if I were a tourist and visiting the country for a very short time, I may be charged a slightly higher fee because I do not pay taxes in the host country, and therefore do not contribute to the economy. But what business does any organization have charging a foreign “resident” a surcharge on medical care solely based on the passport of an individual or the color of their skin?
And what’s infuriating is that, even within the hospital that has these surcharges, only some foreigners end up paying the surcharge, while others walk away like nothing ever happened. Let me illustrate, if you may. The friend of mine, whom I was alluding to earlier, was in line for the cashier’s counter to pay off her hospital bill. The person ahead of her was a British Caucasian man. When he got his bill, it included the 25% surcharge and the man was politely informed that he had no choice but to pay the full amount. “This is just the hospital policy”, he was told. Then it was my friend’s turn and, sensing her foreign accent (even though she is American-Indian), was immediately asked her for proof of citizenship. When she whipped out her PIO card, she was told she needed to pay the surcharge because she was not a citizen of India. It was plain and simple as that! So she stepped aside and the lady behind her, who looked and sounded Indian, but was actually a Canadian-Indian (my friend knew because she got chatting with her while in line), was not even asked what her citizenship status was. There was no inquiry made, whatsoever. My friend was, naturally, infuriated.
Bottom line is: there is no standard policy on this 25% surcharge in hospitals in Mumbai, let alone India. Yet, some hospitals are thriving on this surcharge and believe their policy is fair and square. I personally am embarrassed by this stupidity and sincerely hope that this policy be abandoned. Currently, there is a petition that is being signed by expats and non-expats who are against this policy. My gut feeling is that, being India, this petition will only go so far. But I still think there is hope and sight, and more to be determined in the next few months.