Parliament: Better to cap claims than hospital bills, says Health Minister

Shelves full of medication at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.  Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said it is better to cap claims than hospital bills in a written reply in Parliament on Aug 17.
Shelves full of medication at KK Women's and Children's Hospital. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said it is better to cap claims than hospital bills in a written reply in Parliament on Aug 17.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - It is better to provide higher insurance coverage than to cap bills in subsidised classes, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.

Responding to a question from Nominated MP K. Karthikeyan, Mr Gan said in a written parliamentary reply on Monday: "Setting caps on hospital bills may inadvertently encourage wasteful consumption."

This is because doctors might order more tests than the patient needs, simply because "any expenses above the cap will be 'free' to the patients", he added.

Even with better coverage with MediShield Life, which kicks in on November 1, there will still be limits to what can be claimed - though these limits are much higher than what is currently covered by MediShield.

These claim limits helps to manage the cost of treatment that patients get, he said.

Higher costs from unnecessary treatments has to be paid - whether it comes from the government through higher taxes, or from the people through higher insurance premiums.

With the higher claims allowed by MediShield Life, almost all subsidised B2 and C class treatments will be covered.

Costs are already highly subsidised, with patients in C class getting as much as 80 per cent of their bills paid for by the government.

Under the new compulsory medical insurance, a patient's share of bigger bills will also be lower, with co-payment starting at just 10 per cent for smaller bills, and going down to only 3 per cent for bills that top $10,000. Patients can tap in their Medisave accounts to pay their bills.

Even today, Mr Gan said, "the majority of hospital bills in Class B2/C wards are almost fully covered by subsidies, MediShield and Medisave, with three-quarters paying $100 or less in cash."

Patients who still have difficult paying their hospital bills can get help from Medifund.