Managing claims costs can keep health insurance sustainable

People waiting for their turns at a waiting room at Tampines Polyclinic.
People waiting for their turns at a waiting room at Tampines Polyclinic.PHOTO: ST FILE

We thank Mr Patrick Tan Siong Kuan for his feedback ("Deal with inefficiency in health insurance industry"; last Wednesday) and agree that more can be done to improve efficiencies to keep healthcare and healthcare coverage affordable for Singapore residents.

It requires greater collaboration among stakeholders, including insurers, regulators, doctors and healthcare providers, as highlighted in the recommendations put forth by the Health Insurance Task Force (HITF) earlier this month.

The HITF report is available on the Life Insurance Association, Singapore website (www.lia.org.sg), and we encourage members of the public to refer to the full report for a better understanding of the recommendations made.

We wish to address some misconceptions and concerns raised since the release of the report.

First, insurers are not "doing away with riders". Integrated Shield Plan (IP) insurers will review the product design of IPs and IP riders and, as per the HITF recommendations, consider including the features of co-insurance and/or deductibles without putting any existing policyholders at a disadvantage.

This recommendation is aimed at encouraging medical professionals and policyholders to make medically appropriate decisions, with the aim of avoiding overtreatment and/or overconsumption in the process.

Second, to improve transparency, the HITF also recommended that the Ministry of Health drive the publication of medical fee benchmarks or guidelines. Publication of these guidelines provides an important baseline for assessing medically necessary and reasonable charges, and is a common practice in many countries worldwide.

Third, we give the assurance that premiums are not driven by double claims, as policyholders can make only a single claim under one plan.

We are committed in our efforts to keep healthcare and healthcare coverage affordable for Singapore residents.

The HITF recommendations paper is a step in the right direction, by bringing together stakeholders along the healthcare value chain, with the purpose of seeking better ways to manage increasing claims costs.

This will help enable life insurers to continue providing IPs for Singapore residents in a way that is sustainable for both insurers and the public.

Pauline Lim (Ms)

Executive Director

Life Insurance Association, Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2016, with the headline 'Managing claims costs can keep health insurance sustainable'. Print Edition | Subscribe