The Singapore Medical Council's warning to doctors about unsavoury practices must be followed by firm action against the minority who overtreat and overcharge, believing they can get away with it. Needless treatments and hefty medical charges were mentioned in Parliament earlier this month to explain the Government's decision to stop further sales of full insurance riders that result in patients paying nothing for their treatment. Quite apart from bringing the profession into disrepute and eroding trust, doctors who take advantage of the system to enrich themselves impose a financial burden on patients and on healthcare insurance policyholders who are hit by higher premiums due to rising costs.
Over the past two years, premiums for integrated plans that cover private hospital care have gone up by up to 80 per cent. All six IP insurers have also faced underwriting losses. The situation in the United States provides a salutary lesson in how over-treatment can lead to spiralling healthcare costs and gross wastage. The US Institute of Medicine estimates that a 50 per cent reduction in "unnecessary services" would result in US$105 billion in savings each year.