SINGAPORE: There was an average of 160 overcharging complaints made annually against healthcare institutions in 2015 and 2016, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min revealed in Parliament on Tuesday (Feb 28).
The complaints were made against private and public institutions, said Dr Lam.
He was responding to a question by Member of Parliament Lee Bee Wah, who asked for the number of reports of excessive charging by doctors in private practice in the past five years. Dr Lam said the Ministry of Health (MOH) was unable to accurately compare year-on-year figures over the past five years “due to changes in the data collection system and classification of bill-related feedback”.
“Doctors are ethically responsible for charging fair and reasonable fees to their patients,” he earlier noted. “The Singapore Medical Council’s (SMC) Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines requires doctors to charge reasonably and ensure that their fees are transparent and made known to patients in advance.”
“The SMC can take disciplinary action against errant doctors who do not meet these requirements, and has done so before.”
Dr Lam said MOH was working with healthcare providers to improve fee transparency - for instance by publishing Total Hospital Bill data for common conditions and Total Operation Fees for common surgical procedures for both public and private hospitals.
MOH also requires all hospitals to provide patients with financial counselling upon admission.
“In the outpatient setting, MOH requires all GP and dental clinics under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) scheme to issue itemised bills to CHAS patients, from January this year,” added Dr Lam. “MOH is also studying the recommendations from the Health Insurance Task Force relating to overcharging.”
“Each of us have to play our part to keep our healthcare costs sustainable, while ensuring that patients continue to have access to good quality and appropriate healthcare.”