Forum: Decisions on dental treatment should be made with patients' needs coming first

Recently, the Singapore Medical Association took a firm stand against the current private insurance sector and recommended a committee be appointed to review the current insurance situation.

The Singapore Dental Association (SDA) agrees fully with the Singapore Medical Association that the private insurance sectors have long been exerting control over the health professionals and patients.

Similarly, dental professionals may choose to become panel dentists for insurance companies. But no dental insurance company, through its internal policies and protocols, should ever be given the right to dictate a person's dental health.

In other words, decisions on dental treatment should be made without pressure between patient and dentist, with the needs of the patient being paramount.

The SDA has begun to analyse the current dental insurance policies and the associated insurance companies.

This has forced us to publish our position on the dental insurance policies offered by private health insurance companies.

Insurance which limits a patient to only participating dentists can cause a patient to change dentist, which disrupts continuity of care.

The current situation faced by the dental profession is as follows:

  • Dental insurance is merely a membership programme.
  • Bare minimum and below-benchmark dental fees that fail to keep up with annual inflation.
  • Administrative charges laid on to the dental profession on top of the low fees being awarded. The bulk of the administrative work is mainly being completed by the dentists or their dental clinics.
  • Remuneration by insurance companies usually takes months, leading to additional strain on dental clinics to keep track of their insurance income.
  • Variations in insurance claims protocol leading to additional administrative strains on dental clinics.
  • Dental insurance provides coverage for only some preventative dental work, and policyholders will have no rebates or coverage should they require more complex dental work. This often leads to disappointment expressed towards dentists.
  • Employees are sold dental insurance thinking that all facets of dental treatments are covered.

Change is due. And we need it now.

Samintharaj Kumar (Dr)

Chairman

Committee for the Engagement of Dental Insurance Providers

Singapore Dental Association