Govt can play bigger role in keeping healthcare costs down

There is no easy solution to the issue of healthcare costs ("Keeping a lid on healthcare costs"; Oct 18).

It can be tempting to use the stick to punish patients and doctors who adopt the "buffet" mentality, but providing motivation for the right behaviour will help the majority who do not abuse the system.

For instance, insurers could give rebates to customers who do not claim above a certain amount in a certain time period.

This may help improve the situation and slow the increase in healthcare costs.

We should look at healthcare as a societal problem, with real implications to the whole of society.

The Government could play an even bigger role in improving preventive measures, such as taxes on sugary drinks and subsidies on healthy vegetables.

It could also consider rapidly increasing the number of spaces for Singaporeans to study medicine and its specialities in our local universities.

This will help address the existing shortage of doctors and meet the challenges of a rapidly ageing population. Our students will also be given more well-paying job opportunities.

To take in these new doctors, the Government should open the door to new entrants to build more private healthcare facilities.

In addition, there has recently been enormous speculative behaviour in the medical real estate investment trust market, as property cooling measures have been primarily targeted at residential properties.

The speculation puts pressure on doctors to charge higher fees as they are forced to pay higher rents. This eventually hurts patients.

Healthcare will only become a bigger problem as our population ages. Tackling it head-on would allow us to overcome the difficult challenges of tomorrow.

Lionel Loi Zhi Rui