We thank Mr Edmund Khoo Kim Hock (Competition rules must not apply to healthcare; March 12), Mr Chong Wee Lee (Have hospitals identify action plans to mitigate overcharging; Forum Online, March 12) and the Singapore Medical Association's Dr Wong Tien Hua (Co-payment merely one tool to sustainable healthcare; March 14) for their letters.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) wants healthcare costs to remain affordable and sustainable for all Singaporeans. All stakeholders need to work together on a range of different measures to achieve this.
For example, MOH has appointed an independent Fee Benchmarks Advisory Committee.
The committee is expected to develop the first set of fee benchmarks in the second half of this year.
These benchmarks will guide healthcare providers to charge appropriately for common medical procedures and services and enable patients and payers to make better informed decisions. MOH is monitoring doctors' charging practices and action will be taken against those who over-service and overcharge their patients.
We have also started providing guidance on cost-effective treatments to healthcare providers and doctors.
Since last year, the Agency for Care Effectiveness has issued 19 drug guidances and four Appropriate Care Guides.
Health insurance, as a major payer of healthcare services, needs to have co-payment to encourage both doctors and patients to choose appropriate treatment options. This is an important part of the overall measures to prevent rapid escalation in healthcare costs, which will be borne by all Singaporeans through higher medical fees, insurance premiums or taxes.
Through these measures, all stakeholders - the Government, healthcare professionals and providers, insurers and policyholders, employers, patients and caregivers - have a part to play in keeping healthcare costs sustainable for present and future generations of Singaporeans.
Lim Siok Peng (Ms)
Director, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health