Fixed price packages not always good for patients

According to the Health Insurance Task Force, the average bill size at private hospitals has spiralled to almost three times that of their public counterparts. It is most unfortunate that doctors have had to bear the brunt of the blame.

The return of prescriptive guidelines will be helpful only if there is more certainty in the billings by private hospitals.

An all-inclusive fee package model sounds appealing on paper (Many benefits to fixed-fee surgical packages by Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi; Nov 29). However, with such packages, the devil is in the details.

Bundled price schemes at most private hospitals comprise the operating theatre charges, surgeon's fees and only standard consumable items. Room or ward charges are usually not included. Also, the published fixed price is no longer valid if the operation runs into complications, which is almost always no fault of the patient's.

There is also an exclusion list which contains many items that surgeons may require for any procedure that is less than straightforward.

If the patient's condition does not require a complex operation, then wouldn't elective surgery at a later date in a public sector hospital suffice?

The fixing of surgical package prices is just another marketing strategy to attract more patients.

Many customers could find themselves eventually paying above the published prices for many reasons. The Ministry of Health should keep a closer eye on private hospitals that promote fixed price surgical packages.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2018, with the headline 'Fixed price packages not always good for patients'. Print Edition | Subscribe