Quick fixes don't solve underlying problems in healthcare costs

A quick fix is seemingly a good fix. But more often than not, it is temporary and does not address the underlying problem (Two quick fixes to rein in healthcare costs; April 13).

The report noted that private-sector specialists' fees account for half of an inpatient bill, while doctors' fees for private A-class (non-subsidised) patients at public hospitals make up less than a third of the total bill.

Comparing private doctors' fees with those of doctors in a public hospital is not comparing like for like.

Unlike private doctors, public doctors do not have the same overheads, such as rentals, staff salaries, operational costs and ever-escalating medical malpractice insurance.

Besides doctors' fees, a total inpatient bill also consists of hospital fees, medication costs and others.

These other components, rising medication costs and mark-ups for hospitalisation items contribute significantly to healthcare inflation, and have not been addressed.

Furthermore, a large proportion of hospitalisations are medical admissions without procedures.

In these bills, medical and hospitalisation components are responsible for high fees, as inpatient antibiotics and investigations are marked up manifold.

The call to remove insurance riders is also distressing, and I disagree with the view that riders make nonsense of our co-payment philosophy.

People do not always fall sick as a result of irresponsible behaviour.

Cardiovascular diseases and stroke can occur even in those who eat healthily, while cancer and accidental injury can strike anyone.

Uncontrollable factors like ageing, genetic predisposition and environmental factors also result in illness.

We will all become patients one day. When that day arrives, we may no longer be able to work - and our company insurance ceases when our employment stops.

Medication cost alone for chemotherapy can reach $20,000 a month, while a prolonged hospitalisation with a long stay in the intensive care unit can exceed $400,000 a month.

These costs can be a burden to the family. It is for this reason that many take up comprehensive health insurance at an early age.

Comprehensive health insurance helps us to avoid emptying our savings in the last years of our lives.

Ernest Wang (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2017, with the headline 'Quick fixes don't solve underlying problems in healthcare costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe