Concerted effort needed to rein in insurance costs

To curb the dramatic increase in the number of insurance claims, and hence insurance premium costs, there are five parties who need to play their part ("Health insurance premiums set to shoot up"; Sunday, "Panel suggests doing away with medical insurance riders" and "Policyholders with riders run up higher treatment bills"; both published last Friday).

First, insurance advisers have to take a holistic point of view.

They should not encourage customers to go for the most expensive treatments or help to push such claims through.

They should always check if a test or procedure can be claimed as outpatient treatment, instead of advising the client to stay six hours in a ward in order to file an inpatient claim.

Second, private doctors should stop advising and charging patients based on whether they have comprehensive health insurance coverage.

As insurance advisers, my counterparts and I get calls from clients' doctors asking if their health insurance provides full coverage for private hospitals.

Often, hospitalisation bills turn out to be very huge. Although private medical institutions are profit-driven entities, doctors should still advise and charge patients as though they do not have health insurance coverage.

Third, insurance companies can come together to tackle this issue.

A claim model like that in the auto insurance industry, whereby claims have to be pre-approved, can be considered.

Insurance companies can also have tie-ups with preferred service providers which charge more reasonably.

Insurance companies are often the ones caught in-between and are often unfairly blamed.

Fourth, patients who have health insurance should not abuse their entitlement by always seeking to claim as much as possible.

This will only lead to increasing premiums for themselves and all others, including their loved ones.

Lastly, the authorities should start looking into what private medical institutions and doctors charge. Publishing their charges openly is a good move ("Listing of op fees at private hospitals helps patients"; Oct 6).

Kevin Goh Di Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Concerted effort needed to rein in insurance costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe