Forum: Insurers' doctor panels being expanded; contract changes must be approved by MOH

We refer to the Forum letters by Mr Tan Siak Khian (List of insurer-approved doctors too restrictive, Feb 19; and What checks are there against changes to contract terms?, Feb 24) and would like to provide clarifications on his concerns.

Mr Tan expressed concern about the number of doctors in panels for certain specialities.

Integrated Shield Plan (IP) insurers have an interest in ensuring that their panels are comprehensive, as this increases panel usage and helps IP insurers better manage costs. In line with this, insurers are continuing to expand their panels.

Life Insurance Association (LIA) Singapore has also provided guidelines on the implementation of preferred healthcare panels, which includes the need to ensure that the network is sufficient to offer a wide range of medical services to policyholders.

Mr Tan asked what happens if a doctor is removed from the panel. IP insurers generally decide to remove doctors from a panel only as a last resort or in extreme circumstances. Should removal of a doctor be necessary, an adequately long notice period will be given to allow patients to transition to another doctor, should they wish to do so.

Doctors may also choose to leave panels for various reasons, and this is not within the control of IP insurers. Should there be transfers of care, doctors are professionally obliged to provide sufficient documentary medical information to enable continued quality care.

Mr Tan also asked whether there are checks in place to ensure insurers do not make unfair changes to terms of contract.

IP insurers do not make changes to their insurance contracts lightly, particularly when it comes to changes that affect in-force customers, and such changes go through extensive internal review.

In addition, all contractual changes to IPs must be approved by the Ministry of Health.

Finally, the Monetary Authority of Singapore requires representatives to disclose at point of sale that IP and rider contract terms allow insurers to change the terms and conditions. IP insurers must notify policyholders before doing so.

LIA Singapore and IP insurers are committed to playing our part in ensuring the continued accessibility of healthcare in Singapore.

We urge all parties involved to play their part, too.

Pauline Lim

Executive Director

LIA Singapore