Medical fees sharing outlawed finally

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By: Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Doctors barred from paying percentage of fees to 3rd-party agents” (Today, Dec 14). It states that “some major TPAs here charge percentage fees and have done so for years, but what had doctors crying foul in recent months was a few players charging fees of up to 25 per cent of doctors’ professional fees — in some cases, for merely the “referral” of patients on a particular insurance scheme or panel.”

Another article on the same topic in The Straits Times “Doctors barred from paying agents percentage of fees” said Singapore Medical Council president Tan Ser Kiat “reminded doctors that their duty is to always place patients’ best interests above business or financial considerations.”

In this connection, in a reply to my letter “Give breakdown in medical bills” (Business Times, Apr 13, 2005) – the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) said “Mr Leong further claims that doctors may make excessive profits by marking up the cost of medicines and investigations, and receiving a typical referral fee.

The Singapore Medical Council’s (SMC) Ethical Code strictly prohibits fee-sharing and obtaining commissions from referrals, and the SMC has previously disciplined doctors for doing so.

This is a serious allegation and SMA would like to invite Mr Leong to inform us if he has any concrete examples of this happening. SMA will investigate and take the necessary action. Alternatively, Mr Leong can inform SMC directly.”

It is good now for the practice of giving or taking of referral fees or sharing of fees, to be finally outlawed, as it is a big step towards reining in rising medical costs .