Chas: Itemised bills may be mandatory

Phoenix Dental Surgery in Ang Mo Kio was one of two dental clinics suspended from Chas over questionable claims.
Phoenix Dental Surgery in Ang Mo Kio was one of two dental clinics suspended from Chas over questionable claims.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

MOH considering this following complaints of overcharging at some private clinics

The 1,600 medical and dental clinics here which offer a government subsidy to patients may soon have to issue itemised bills to them.

This emerged during a parliamentary debate yesterday on overcharging and over-servicing by general practitioners (GPs) and dentists on the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas), which provides 1.4 million Singaporeans with subsidised treatments at private clinics.

Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said the ministry had received about 300 complaints in the three years from 2013 to 2015, "a relatively small number" given the 5.8 million claims during that period.

About half of the complaints were about charges such as incorrect billing and high fees. There were also complaints about clinics refusing to provide itemised bills.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) suggested making itemised bills compulsory so patients can check what they have been billed for.

When Dr Lam said the Ministry of Health (MOH) is looking into whether this is necessary, Ms Lee asked: "Why is it so difficult, given so much feedback on overcharging?" Dr Lam then said that the MOH is "seriously considering making it compulsory" and "we will announce this very soon".

When Dr Lam said the MOH is looking into whether this is necessary, Ms Lee asked: "Why is it so difficult, given so much feedback on overcharging?" Dr Lam then said that the MOH is "seriously considering making it compulsory" and "we will announce this very soon".

Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) asked how widespread excessive claims were and if the recent suspension of two dental clinics for possible cheating was just the tip of the iceberg. "These are serious monies that are going out, taxpayers' monies," he said.

Dr Lam said a few more clinics have been referred to the police, but was unable to give details until investigations are completed.

Mr Leon Perera, a Non-Constituency MP, said residents have told him that GPs charge a consultation fee for a follow-up visit if the patient is claiming the Chas subsidy, but not otherwise. Dr Lam asked for details so that the ministry can investigate to see if "there is any misconduct or malpractice".

Meanwhile, Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) suggested having just one Chas card as people with the orange card are unhappy with the lower subsidy they get, compared with those with the blue card. Alternatively, he suggested giving more people the blue card as the orange card is "so unpopular".

Dr Lam replied that the MOH regularly reviews the amount of subsidy as well as the scope of coverage. It was public feedback that led it to remove the age criterion for the Chas card in 2014. It used to be only for people aged 40 years and older.

He told Mr Cedric Foo (Pioneer) that half of all Singaporeans qualify for Chas, with the bottom 30 per cent getting the blue card and the next 20 per cent the orange card.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2016, with the headline 'Chas: Itemised bills may be mandatory'. Print Edition | Subscribe