Affordable healthcare will remain an elusive goal if healthcare inflation keeps racing ahead, while reforms move at a shuffling pace. The former rose by 30.6 per cent in the 10 years from 2005 to 2015, based on the Consumer Price Index for healthcare. As for policies to check costs, an incremental step was taken recently by the authorities to disallow full riders for Integrated Shield Plans. That is helpful but more needs to be done.
The poor functioning of the market contributed to rocketing costs - a result insurers must also take responsibility for. Consider this: It is widely accepted that patients exercise greater care in making treatment choices when they have to pick up part of the bill. But insurers encouraged consumption by introducing riders to allow people to dodge co-payment. At first, the reimbursements had caps. But from around 2005, insurers were misguidedly offering to pay the full bill - a move that "should have never been allowed in the first place", as noted by Professor Teo Yik Ying.
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