Forum: Regulators must ensure insurance companies abide by LIA clarification

We refer to The Straits Times' senior health correspondent Salma Khalik's article (Doctors say insurers' form asks for too much patient info, Oct 19).

Despite several rounds of correspondence with the Life Insurance Association (LIA) over several months, the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) was unable to obtain any assurance from it that the information would not be used for other purposes such as creating a medical case profile of a patient.

So we welcome the report that the information will be used only for pre-admission authorisation.

We trust that regulatory agencies such as the Ministry of Health, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Personal Data Protection Commission will ensure that insurance companies adhere strictly to LIA's latest clarification on how the data will be utilised.

Prior to this clarification, SMA could not support the form because we were unsure how the information collected would be used and if patients would consent to such use.

LIA informed SMA that it would like to implement this pre-authorisation form some time between Oct 1 this year and March 31 next year.

We first wrote to LIA on July 18 and subsequently on Sept 26, raising these issues and with suggested amendments to the form, but these were not adequately addressed.

Finally, LIA's convener Alan Ong wrote to SMA on Oct 4, concluding that our suggested changes were rejected. His response came after the form had already been introduced on Oct 1, which was puzzling since there was ample time to incorporate the suggestions or discuss the issues.

In general, SMA thinks meaningful discussions and negotiations are difficult to initiate once one party unilaterally implements something which has elements that are still controversial.

Notwithstanding the assurances that LIA has now given, SMA maintains that in the majority of medical cases, it is the primary medical condition that the patient is admitted for that drives admission costs. Therefore, in the majority of cases, it is unnecessary for LIA to collect information for patients with stable medical conditions.

Lim Kheng Choon (Dr)

Honorary Secretary

Singapore Medical Association

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2019, with the headline 'Regulators must ensure insurance companies abide by LIA clarification'. Print Edition | Subscribe