Clamp down on clinics treating Chas as 'blank cheque'

Phoenix Dental Surgery in Ang Mo Kio, one of 2 dental clinics suspended by MOH for making claims under CHAS for procedures not performed.
Phoenix Dental Surgery in Ang Mo Kio, one of 2 dental clinics suspended by MOH for making claims under CHAS for procedures not performed.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

I support Mr Andrew Seow Chwee Guan's suggestion ("Make itemised receipts at Chas clinics mandatory"; Tuesday).

When I visit a clinic under the Pioneer Generation scheme and ask for a receipt, the standard reply is: "It's free, so what receipt do you want?"

The description by a dentist of the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) and Medisave as a "blank cheque" is very apt ("Health Ministry must do more to deter fraud"; Monday). My experience at a dental clinic in the west demonstrates this.

On my first visit, I was told that the treatment was free and I could go.

On my second visit six months later, I brought my wife, who holds a Chas card, along.

Both of us went through a routine check-up and were billed more than $500. After factoring in the subsidy, we had to pay more than $200.

When I asked why we had to pay so much, I was told it was for $80 fluoride treatments, large fillings, cleaning, polishing and X-rays.

It is debatable whether the fillings were large. Moreover, the X-rays were taken after treatment, just before I left the room, rather than before the treatment - I was told that this was to see if everything was in order.

On my third visit to the clinic a few months later, I asked about the cost of making a new set of dentures for four teeth.

I was taken to see a young woman, whose card said she was the general manager. There were no dental qualifications attached to her name.

She went all out to convince me to go for an implant instead of dentures, and used a calculator and paper to work out my payment plans.

After factoring in deductions from Medisave, I would have to pay $8,000 in cash.

When I told her I could not afford it, she brought it down to $5,000.

I told her I had to discuss it with my family, and was surprised when she called me the next day to ask about it. She said she was prepared to lower the cash payment even further.

I had never realised that I could bargain over prices at dental clinics as though I were shopping in Bangkok.

I hope the Health Ministry will act fast, before things get out of hand. After all, subsidies are taxpayers' money.

Ronnie Lim Ah Bee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2016, with the headline 'Clamp down on clinics treating Chas as 'blank cheque''. Print Edition | Subscribe