An RT-PCR test for Covid cannot cost more than Rs 500, the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission said on Thursday.
The earlier cap was Rs 950.
An advisory issued by the commission on Thursday notified the change.
“There has been further noticeable reduction in market price of the testing reagents including RT PCR kits, RNA extraction kits, VTM and it has been felt that the reduction in the notified rate has become necessary in public interest,” the notification issued by the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission said.
RT-PCR rates have been reduced a few times since the start of the Covid pandemic. In June 2020, the maximum price was set at Rs 2,250. It was brought down to Rs 1,500 in October 2020.
Before the state government capped the rate, several hospitals were charging Rs 4,500 for an RT-PCR test.
The hospitals may take a day to rework their billing system to charge the new price.
Private establishments are allowed to charge an additional cost if they send personnel to collect samples from home but it cannot exceed Rs 15 a kilometre.
Officials of private hospitals said they would appeal to the commission to reconsider its decision.
“It is true that the prices of reagents have come down. But the tests also require infrastructure and manpower. And these have a cost, too. We could manage with a reduced price when we were doing a large number of tests, but when the number comes down, the reduced rate will become unfeasible,” said Rupak Barua, president of the Association of Hospitals of Eastern India.
An official of another hospital said they would expect the state government to talk to the suppliers and further reduce the prices of reagents.
“We are ready to forgo any profit from the RT-PCR test, but we cannot do it incurring losses. If the new cap leads to losses, we may have to stop the test,” he said.
Ashim Banerjee, the commission’s chairman, said the prices of CBNAAT and TRUNAT tests would remain unchanged.