SINGAPORE: A total of S$169 million in subsidies was given out to about 685,000 Singaporeans last year under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Sunday (May 14).
The scheme gives low- to middle-income Singaporeans and those from the pioneer generation subsidies at more than 1,650 participating general practitioners (GPs) and dentists. About 1.3 million Singaporeans are eligible.
According to Mr Gan, 97 per cent of CHAS and pioneer generation cardholders islandwide have access to more than one CHAS clinic within a kilometre of their homes.
Speaking at the CHAS Family Carnival at Bedok Town Square, Mr Gan reiterated the importance of having a regular GP as he said family doctors had in-depth knowledge of their patients' medical and family history and were better-placed to provide holistic care.
He added that the Government would continue to support GPs in caring for Singaporeans, including through initiatives previously announced in March such as the scaling up of efforts to re-organise GPs into Primary Care Networks and enhancing the Health Promotion Board’s Screen-For-Life Programme from Sep 1 to make health screenings more affordable and convenient.
MORE TRANSPARENCY IN CLINIC CHARGES, SUBSIDIES
In his speech, Mr Gan also said the ministry has taken steps to improve the transparency of clinic charges and CHAS subsidies.
Itemised billing was introduced by the ministry from the beginning of this year.
"We have also provided our CHAS partners with an updated set of guidelines on claims criteria and process. We hope such improvements will help to make clinic charges and CHAS subsidies clear to patients and clinics," said Mr Gan.
Earlier this month, three GP clinics - Bedok Day & Night Clinic, Jurong Day & Night Clinic and MW Medical Centre (Cross Street) - were served notices for making CHAS claims consultations and treatments which were not performed. Last year, the Health Ministry also struck off two dental clinics from the scheme for similar reasons.
According to statistics on the MOH website reported in 2016, there were about 300 complaints lodged against CHAS clinics from 2013 to 2015. And about half of these were related to charges at CHAS clinics, including incorrect billing and high fees.
However, Uber driver Alvin Poh, who said he paid between S$18 and S$35 after subsidies each time he visited his GP, said he did not spare much thought to his bill.
"There's no difference because I trust my GP and I know there is (a) subsidy," he said.
Mr Poh suffers from multiple chronic conditions including diabetes and has been on the scheme since 2014.
The 40-year-old's family doctor, Dr Paul Ang, who is based at Zenith Medical Clinic, said nurses at the counter do explain the breakdown of a bill to patients but no patient has ever questioned a bill.
While he said this shows that they trust their GPs, he added that patients should know the type and cost of medication they are taking and how their condition is being treated.
"I think the public nowadays is getting more and more education. The younger patients are generally able to tell me their medical conditions, the price of their medication. It's more of the older crowd," Dr Ang said.
"The Government also has to audit out these errant clinics and strike them off the register," he added.