In response to the numerous incidents of overpriced COVID-19 treatment in private clinics, Morocco’s Ministry of Health has decided to publicize its reference prices.
The ministry also launched an online platform for citizens to file complaints against medical professionals and private clinics that do not respect the reference prices.
Minister of Health Khalid Ait Taleb announced the measures on Wednesday after a meeting with representatives from the National Association of Private Clinics (ANCP) and the National Agency for Medical Insurance (ANAM).
“Regarding the overcharging of some COVID-19 patients in some private clinics, the ANCP has pledged to denounce any misconduct or abuse that blight the private sector’s efforts,” Ait Taleb said.
The minister also denounced the overpriced bills: “This should not take place.”
ANCP President Redouane Semlali confirmed the minister’s statement, saying that the association “wants to assist all citizens in a difficult situation.”
Meanwhile, Khalid Lahlou, the director-general of ANAM, announced that Morocco’s reference prices for COVID-19 treatment are available on the agency’s website.
The meeting came after a large number of citizens complained about being overcharged in private clinics.
MAD 200,000 to bury a loved one
One of the most infamous incidents concerns a private clinic that allegedly refused to deliver the body of a pharmacist who died from COVID-19 to his family until the deceased’s relatives paid an amount of MAD 200,000 ($21,845).
The Regional Council of Pharmacists of the South, to which the deceased pharmacist belonged, denounced the incident in a letter sent on November 4 to the health minister.
The letter, written by the council’s president, Saadia Moutawakil, accused a clinic in Casablanca of asking for the exorbitant amount after the deceased spent seven days in a reanimation bed.
Moutawakil also condemned the clinic for asking for a MAD 40,000 ($4,369) cheque in advance before taking the COVID-19 patient in charge.
After the incident went viral on social media, the clinic gradually reduced the required amount. The clinic first reduced the bill to MAD 140,000 ($15,292), then to MAD 100,000 ($10,923), and finally to MAD 76,000 ($8,301).
According to Morocco’s reference prices, the treatment of a COVID-19 patient with severe or critical symptoms in a private clinic costs between MAD 1,000 and MAD 1,500 ($109-$164) per night. Therefore, a seven-night stay under intensive care should not cost more than MAD 10,500 ($1,147).
Even after taking into account the costs of medical tests and drugs provided to the patient during treatment, it is highly unlikely that the medical bill could have reached the amount that the clinic demanded.
The incident does not appear to be unique, as a large number of similar stories have been shared on social media and in local newspapers.
The health ministry’s attempt to raise awareness about the reference prices for COVID-19 treatment is a first step towards deterring clinics in Morocco from overcharging citizens in this time of anxiety and distress. However, it remains to be seen whether the ministry will take firm action against violations.