MP for Sengkang West, Lam Pin Min

Lam Pin Min on radio show: Government looking into issue of appropriate charging by healthcare providers

Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min had clarified on 938NOW’s TalkBack programme on Friday (9 March) that policyholders who currently have full riders on their Integrated Shield Plans (IP) will not be affected by the requirement for all new IP riders to have at least 5 per cent co-payment.

He said that this will only apply to Singaporeans who purchase IP riders, moving forward.

During the Health Ministry’s Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday, the new requirement for co-payment features has been announced, including full riders that is said to encourage a “buffet syndrome”, leading to over-consumption, over-servicing, and over-charging of healthcare services.

This move by the government received what seems to be an overwhelming negative feedback from members of the public.

Dr Lam also pointed out that the quantum of co-payment has been capped at S$3,000, saying, “You can actually use your Medisave to foot some of this co-payment. If you look at the claims experience, about 90 per cent of in-patient hospital bills only attract about S$550 of co-payment.”

The minister said that 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,” he said.

One caller called the radio programme and said that there have been doctors who asked him upfront, during consultations, whether he had insurance.

Dr Lam acknowledged the concern. He noted that he has received such feedback from others as well, saying, “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 convinced the listener that the Government is looking into the issue of appropriate charging by healthcare providers, noting that he believes doctors will be mindful of what tests they prescribe for patients as the co-payment feature on new IP riders has been mandated.