Insurance coverage encourages unethical doctor and patient behaviour

This over-prescription and over-servicing to take advantage of insurance claims is a vicious circle akin to inflated motor insurance claims, and will only increase medical costs.
This over-prescription and over-servicing to take advantage of insurance claims is a vicious circle akin to inflated motor insurance claims, and will only increase medical costs.PHOTO: ST FILE

Last week, a friend saw a general practitioner for insect bites on his limbs from a diving trip.

After the doctor confirmed that he was covered by travel insurance, he proceeded to prescribe two tubes of antibiotic cream, two tubes of topical steroids, two types of antihistamines, systemic antibiotics and potassium permanganate wash.

This was despite my friend's reluctance to take systemic antibiotics and his protests that the treatment was overkill.

The total bill came up to $150, and the doctor informed him that if his condition persisted, his follow-up visit would still be covered by insurance.

This over-prescription and over-servicing to take advantage of insurance claims is a vicious circle akin to inflated motor insurance claims, and will only increase medical costs.

Taking too much medication and unnecessarily strong medication ultimately harms patient health.

And there are of course greedy patients who take advantage of this as well by making insurance claims for every overseas trip, and asking the doctor for all sorts of medication unrelated to the trips, just to make it worth the insurance premiums paid.

That is the sad reality of greed driving unethical behaviour by doctors and patients alike.

Lim Boon Hee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2019, with the headline 'Insurance coverage encourages unethical doctor and patient behaviour'. Print Edition | Subscribe