SINGAPORE: The new requirements for new Integrated Shield Plans (IP) riders to have at least 5 per cent co-payment do not apply to existing policyholders, Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min has clarified.
He said on 938NOW’s TalkBack programme on Friday (Mar 9) that this will only "apply to Singaporeans who purchase IP riders, moving forward".
The new requirement for co-payment features was announced during the Health Ministry's Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday.
During the debate, Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat had said in Parliament: "We recognise that existing rider policies are commercial contracts between insurers and their policyholders.
"If insurers intend to make changes to their existing policies, they should consider the interest and well-being of all policyholders, as they seek to keep premiums affordable for everyone in the longer term."
The Government had said that full riders encouraged a "buffet syndrome", which led to over-consumption, over-servicing, and over-charging of healthcare services.
Dr Lam also pointed out that the quantum of co-payment has been capped at S$3,000.
“You can actually use your Medisave to foot some of this co-payment,” he said. “If you look at the claims experience, about 90 per cent of in-patient hospital bills only attract about S$550 of co-payment.”
He said the Government has been studying "a slew of measures" for many years, and the initiatives are not targeted at consumers alone.
"We're also looking at the way doctors charge. Therefore, the Fee Benchmark Committee has been formed, to come up with recommendations for fair and reasonable charging.
"At the same time, we're also looking at other measures, like appropriate care guides to be issued to healthcare professionals, and looking at the government level how we can improve productivity, efficiency, so that we can manage the rising healthcare costs."
On the radio programme on Friday, one caller said there have been doctors who asked him upfront, during consultations, whether he had insurance.
Dr Lam acknowledged the concern, saying he has received such feedback from others as well. "Whether the intent is good or not good, I think it's very hard for us to decide at this point in time, until we know what is really happening.
"But I think doctors should prescribe the type of treatment which is appropriate to the patient's medical condition. I think this is the most fundamental principle that all healthcare professionals must abide by."
Dr Lam gave assurance that the Government is looking into the issue of appropriate charging by healthcare providers.
And now that the co-payment feature on new IP riders has been mandated, he believes doctors will be mindful of what tests they prescribe for patients, he said.