Time for private hospitals to reduce hidden costs

It is disconcerting that even a public-sector facility such as KK Women's and Children's Hospital includes a myriad of hidden charges when billing private patients (Visitor upset at host of extras in KKH bill; July 9).

Some private hospitals have long had a reputation for issuing only summary bills, and will give a breakdown of charges only when pressed to do so by patients. The price of inpatient services and supplies should be a reflection of their costs.

However, a closer scrutiny of certain detailed private hospital bills reveals that the various exorbitant charges do not include any service element as there are separate daily treatment, ward, nursing and miscellaneous charges on top of those for room and board.

The mark-ups of common everyday items may be as high as 200 per cent of their cost. This qualifies as gross profiteering.

It is hardly surprising that Singapore has lost its attraction as the region's top medical hub.

With private healthcare costs rising at a rate of 18 per cent a year, it is clear that Singapore has priced itself out of the region.

Certain neighbouring countries are not only significantly cheaper in the area of healthcare, but are also acquiring new capabilities and modern facilities to narrow the gap in terms of the quality of care.

Beyond having lower charges, foreign hospitals are also far more willing to provide prices and quotes up front than private facilities here, which quite often provide only rough estimates.

Hopefully, the continued decline of medical tourism will pressure private hospitals to include fewer hidden costs than they currently do in their bills, which most patients have no way to fully comprehend or verify.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline 'Time for private hospitals to reduce hidden costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe