In a letter to The Straits Times, Dr Thomas Lee Hock Seng comments on the news report from March 7 concerning the appeal of insurers to the Ministry of Health (MOH) for every patient to at least pay part of their hospital fees. According to Dr. Seng, this dilemma has been created by the market economy.
In his letter he asks if this is the right path to take in the light of a healthcare plan for everyone, since it is acknowledged that healthcare costs are indeed rising greatly all over the world.
Dr. Seng cites Jamie Dimeon, CEO of JP Morgan, who has said that when it comes to managing healthcare, “people want transparency, knowledge and control.” Dr. Seng believes that these are the very issues that the government-started Health Insurance Task Force should address.
Insurance companies have claimed that patients who have no share in paying for their healthcare not only make more claims, but that these claims are higher than patients who do pay a portion of hospital fees. However, according to Dr. Seng, this is an incomplete picture.
The doctor urges “a realistic look at the critical contributors of costs,” since he finds the premise that people have become abusive of their health insurance when they pay very little, or not at all, to be incomplete.
One factor that deserves serious consideration is that certain cases occurred wherein private hospitals and doctors “overcharged patients by inflating certain components of the bill,” something that is included in the Task Force report.
This proves that patients are not in control of their healthcare, and therefore having them pay for the fees in full does not address the issue. What should be addressed, then, are the factors that can add to the rising costs of healthcare, which are the doctors and hospitals themselves.
After all, as Dr. Seng asks, “Who wants to fall sick if they can stay healthy?”