We refer to senior health correspondent Salma Khalik's commentary (Subsidies for different care hospitals need to be better aligned, April 11), and related letters (Address dilemma of higher out-of-pocket bills in hospital move by Mr Melvin Chan, and Standardise considerations for hospital subsidies by Mr Leong Kok Seng, both published on April 15).
The average daily bill at community hospitals is generally lower than at public acute hospitals.
The public acute hospitals list ward charges, which is only one component of the bill.
The charges posted by community hospitals reflect the overall daily cost, which includes all expenses that are likely to be incurred. The Ministry of Health (MOH) will work with our hospitals to review how information on the charges can be better presented to minimise confusion.
Government subsidies are available. To determine the level of healthcare subsidies to be provided, MOH generally uses per capita household income as it takes into account the means and size of the household.
However, we use an individual's income instead when assessing the eligibility for subsidies at acute hospitals to keep the processes simple, as acute hospital stays are typically relatively short.
We are reviewing whether the basis for subsidies for acute hospitals should be aligned with other healthcare subsidy schemes.
MediShield Life and Medisave can be used for both acute and community hospital stays.
The claim limits take into consideration bill sizes in the respective settings, and are therefore lower for community hospitals than acute hospitals.
Community hospitals are designed primarily to provide rehabilitation services for patients discharged from acute hospitals.
With greater experience in operating community hospitals and clearer care guidelines, MOH has assessed that selected patients can be safely admitted directly from emergency departments to community hospitals without first being admitted in acute hospitals. We extended MediShield Life coverage to this arrangement from July 15 last year.
On the whole, our objective is to ensure that care is accessible and affordable, regardless of setting.
We review the financing framework from time to time to achieve this objective, taking into account the diverse needs of patients while keeping the framework simple.
Lim Siok Peng
Corporate Communications Division
Ministry of Health