Essential services cannot be left to free market mechanisms

The impending introduction of the medical fee benchmark will serve us well in keeping medical costs transparent (Let free market mechanism set doctors' fees; by Dr Yik Keng Yeong; Jan 23).

Unlike other services, medical services are essential. We cannot do without them.

Nobody can claim to have never required the services of a doctor, but one can live one's whole life without seeking the services of a lawyer, an architect, an engineer andmany others.

It is easy to define a free economy in an idealised situation as a "do what you want" scenario.

But we also need a coordinated market model with regulations and guidelines, such as the upcoming medical fee benchmark listing, to correct any imbalances in order to achieve a more desirable social outcome.

We should look at medical services as one of the basic must-have elements needed for a sustainable life, besides roofs over our heads and the food we consume.

Clara Ng Wai Soon (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2018, with the headline 'Essential services cannot be left to free market mechanisms'. Print Edition | Subscribe