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Hospitals: Class C still affordable?

(Part 5 of the Singapore Census 2010 Series)

by Leong Sze Hian

According to the recently released Singapore Census 2010, Singaporeans are getting older. Citizens aged between 45 and 54, now form the largest age group, compared to 2000 when it was those between 35 and 44.

Healthcare affordability

When I read this, the first thing that came to my mind was – no wonder Singaporeans have listed the affordability of healthcare as one of their greatest concerns, in practically every survey done in recent years.

In this regard, a good starting point in my view, is to examine how much Class C hospitalisation bill size has increased, as it is the cheapest option for Singaporeans.

Class C bills increase by as much as 100%

Source: KKH

In this connection, I refer to media reports (“Jump in hospital bills over past four years“, ST, Jan 8) about the jump in hospital bills over the past four years.

The Ministry of Health’s (MOH) remarks that the almost doubling on the high end of the average bill for a subsidised C-class patient in a public hospital in the four years since 2006, is partly due to patients asking for non-subsidised drugs and implants, is rather puzzling.

Patients request more expensive drugs?
How would patients know and  ask for  non-subsidised drugs and implants?

Aren’t these in the treatment guidelines of the hospital, which doctors are duty bound to inform their patients?

Has the number and proportion of non-subsidised items in C-class been increasing over the years?

Looking at the statistics provided by MOH, average surgical bills have increased by at least 50 per cent at six out of the seven public hospitals.

In my volunteer work doing financial counseling for the need, I have come across C-class bills of around $90,000 due primarily to very expensive drugs that are not subsidized, for just over a month fs stay in public hospitals.

Since C-class is already the cheapest hospitalization option for Singaporeans, and non-subsidised items are also generally not covered by CPF approved medical insurance, the trend of increasing healthcare costs and non-subsidised items may pose an increasing financial strain on patients and their family members.

What are MOH’s plans to address this problem?