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Photo Credit: Singapore National Eye Centre

Singapore National Eye Centre vows to cut charges for complex procedures after S$4.50 MediShield Life fiasco

The Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) has promised to review and make adjustments to its charges periodically for complex procedures, days after the media revealed that MediShield Life only paid S$4.50 for an elderly man’s S$4, 477 post-subsidy bill.

The elderly, Mr Seow Ban Yam received a bill that amounted to over S$12,000 for his cataract operation on both eyes at SNEC. After government subsidies, the bill came up to S$4,477 and the elderly man paid S$3000 of that out of his Medisave account.

Mr Seow had an impression that MediShield Life would cover 90 per cent of the remaining S$1,477. To his shock, the national insurance only paid out S$4.50 after it said that it imposes a S$2,800 cap on the procedure he underwent.

This means that the maximum reimbursement for such a procedure each year is S$2800 + plus actual ward fees of S$205. This totals to S$3,005 and out of this amount, S$3,000 has to be taken from patient’s own CPF funds. This leaves only S$5 that is claimable by insurance. Hence, MediShield Life paid 90 per cent of that S$5 – amounting to a paltry S$4.50.

Post this fiasco, SNEC said it will cut its charges to strike a balance between cost recovery and patient affordability. The cost for most common procedures, such as cataract and glaucoma surgery, are closely monitored to ensure patients can pay with Medisave and make minimal cash outlay.

SNEC’s Chief Operating Officer, Ms Charity Wai, said that as a tertiary referral centre, uncommon but complex cases, with high risk of complications, would need the expertise of senior and experienced surgeons.

In fact, such surgery requires longer operating time. For Mr Seow’s case, a duct drainage operation was required for both eyes and the surgery took three hours, Ms Wai explained.

She added, “Duct drainage surgery is not common. Of the 42,000 procedures SNEC performed in 2017, there were only seven such cases.”

As such, SNEC recognises that it could do more often cost reviews to close the prevailing gaps between cost burden of patients and what it charges for the hospital to survive financially.

“With the latest review of SNEC’s charges to better align a wider range of procedures with Medisave and MediShield claim limits, patients requiring complex operations of higher surgical table codes will see reduced charges, including that which Mr Seow underwent,” she explained.

The new fee revisions will be introduced from 1 March.