SINGAPORE - Some 260,000 Singaporeans have received subsidies from the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) totalling $42 million in the first eight months of this year.
This is up from the 145,000 Singaporeans who received $31 million in Chas subsidies for the whole of 2013, said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor in Parliament on Tuesday.
A total of 1.1 million Singaporeans are eligible for the scheme, she noted.
This includes around 850,000 Singaporeans currently on Chas, which gives medical discounts to lower- and middle-income citizens.
It also includes members of the pioneer generation - who are aged 65 and above this year and became Singapore citizens by 1987 - who have been eligible for a special Chas subsidy since the beginning of September.
Dr Khor was responding to questions from Dr Intan Mokhtar (Ang Mo Kio GRC) about the cost of the scheme and the number of Singaporeans who have benefited from it.
She also said the Health Ministry (MOH) encourages clinics to display their common charges such as consultation fees prominently, and to address any concerns that patients may have.
"This will make the charges more transparent to their patients. We also encourage patients to clarify with their doctors, if they have any queries on their treatment and charges," she added in response to questions from Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) on how the ministry prevent abuses by errant doctors who hike their fees artificially.
The minister noted that prices charged differ depending on various factors, including the medical condition, treatment provided, medications prescribed, length of consult and the operating costs of the clinics.
"The vast majority of our doctors do observe the Singapore Medical Council's Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines, which state that doctors cannot abuse the doctor-patient relationship for personal gain," she said.
Dr Khor also said that MOH also closely monitors Chas claims submitted by clinics.
"Clinics have been and will continue to be called upon to account for any exceptional claims," she added.
Her reply came amid a recent debate over doctors overcharging fees.