Forum: Collate, publicise detailed info to help consumers in choosing IP insurers

Changes have been made to tackle common issues raised over Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) as a result of recommendations made by the Multilateral Healthcare Insurance Committee (IP insurers to have more specialist doctors on panels, Nov 10).

From a consumer's perspective, my concern is that so long as existing policyholders have little influence over contract changes, any recommendations may appear piecemeal.

Potential policyholders should be made aware of what changes each IP insurer has made to the benefits and conditions of existing policies, so that they can make an informed decision with their purchase.

This information should be collated over time and made publicly available.

Metrics such as the number of claim rejections before and after appeals, number of doctors who have left that insurer's panel, and the percentage and frequency of increases in premiums should also be collected.

The number of doctors on each of the seven insurers' panels, which was reported last week, is an excellent example of data that should be periodically monitored and made publicly available.

Insurers need to be financially viable or this portion of healthcare financing will collapse. There must still be commercial viability for this product for there to be seven insurers for such a small market.

But how can processes be developed to encourage all players to self-regulate and temper their commercial instincts when they make future changes?

If more metrics are shared publicly, all seven players would have to consider how each competitor would react with each change they may be considering in the future, as well as how any change would be perceived by potential customers.

As things stand, insurers seem to be taking the path of least resistance. There is no incentive for them to think more creatively before making changes.

Take for example the number of doctors on the insurers' panels. All the insurers have now committed to increasing this number.

I believe there was previously no pressure on them to take action, and so they took the easy way out by not doing so - at the expense of policyholders.

If data is more transparent, it may also reduce the frequency of disputes between stakeholders.

The Consumers Association of Singapore has done well in setting up Fuel Kaki, which gives motorists a one-stop portal to compare fuel prices and promotions.

Perhaps something similar can be done with insurers?

Tan Siak Khian

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