MOH appoints 12-member committee to address health insurance issues

The committee will recommend improvements to manage rising costs in the healthcare insurance system. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A 12-member committee has been appointed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to work towards improving Singapore's healthcare insurance system.

The committee, which starts its work from April 27, will recommend improvements to manage rising costs in the healthcare insurance system and guide the establishment of platforms to address complaints and conflicts arising from healthcare insurance claims.

Announcing this on Wednesday (April 14), MOH said the Multilateral Healthcare Insurance Committee (MHIC) comprises representatives from the Academy of Medicine, Singapore (AMS), Consumers Association of Singapore (Case), Fee Benchmarks Advisory Committee (FBAC), Life Insurance Association (LIA), Singapore Medical Association (SMA) and private hospitals.

It is co-chaired by MOH's deputy secretary for policy Ngiam Siew Ying and Dr Daphne Khoo, deputy director of medical services (healthcare performance group).

The move comes after a recent spat between the SMA and the LIA over insurers having panel doctors.

Private sector doctors have expressed their unhappiness with Integrated Shield Plan insurers for excluding many specialists from their panel of doctors for policyholders and have called such panels "highly exclusive".

The SMA also wants more transparency on how doctors are picked, and for insurers to pay more to doctors on the panels.

Insurers said expanding their panels is on the cards, but a "reckless" expansion could cause premiums to rise significantly. Doctors also cannot expect default fees at the upper end of fee benchmarks set by MOH, they added.

Both sides had previously sought to address issues related to Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) via a pro-tem committee established in October 2020 between AMS, LIA and SMA.

In its statement on Wednesday, MOH said the committee will be the primary platform through which the ministry, doctors, insurers and hospitals work together to improve Singapore's healthcare insurance system.

The committee will work in the public's and patients' best interests in providing recommendations on ensuring quality, safe, cost-effective and affordable healthcare for Singaporeans, the ministry added.

It said the MHIC will build on the work of the pro-tem committee, which "has made progress" over issues such as improving consumer education on IP, improving panel sizes and facilitating the setting of panel fees within MOH fee benchmarks.

Following the dispute between SMA and LIA, Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon said earlier this month that the pro-tem committee would be formalised into a committee appointed by MOH.

Frank discussions among stakeholders to identify issues and work on solutions to improve the system are the right way forward, he said then.

On Wednesday, MOH said other key priorities for the MHIC include improving the claims pre-authorisation process for treatment as well as transparency across the board.

More details on the MHIC's recommendations will be released when ready, it added.

A spokesman for the SMA said that it looks forward to the discussions with the various stakeholders to better understand the challenges that each of them faces, and how fair and equitable outcomes can be reached.

"Everyone shares the goal of a national sustainable healthcare system," the spokesman said.

The committee members

Co-chairs: Ms Ngiam Siew Ying, deputy secretary (policy), MOH; Dr Daphne Khoo, deputy director of medical services (healthcare performance group), MOH

1. Professor Teo Eng Kiong, master, AMS

2. Dr Ho Kok Sun, censor, AMS

3. Mr Dennis Tan, deputy president, LIA

4. Mr Andrew Yeo, main representative of management committee; management committee adviser to health insurance subcommittee, LIA

5. Dr Alan Ong, convenor of health insurance subcommittee, LIA

6. Mr Patrick Kok, authorised representative of management committee, LIA

7. Dr Tan Yia Swam, president, SMA

8. Dr Ng Chee Kwan, first vice-president, SMA

9. Dr James Lam Kian Ming, CEO, Mount Alvernia Hospital

10. Dr Prem Kumar Nair, CEO, IHH Healthcare Singapore

11. Dr Wee Siew Bock, chairman-designate, FBAC

12. Mr Lim Biow Chuan, president, Case

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