SINGAPORE - Patients may have a better idea of what they should be paying when served by private sector anaesthetists and doctors providing inpatient consultation following the release of fee benchmarks by the Health Ministry (MOH) on Tuesday (Dec 29).
It shows recommended fee ranges for about 190 procedures conducted by anaesthetists, as well as suggested charges for consultations and reviews of patients in different ward settings by private sector doctors.
"The fee benchmarks will give patients and payers more complete information on the reasonable range of doctors' fees for surgeries and hospital stays and enable better informed decisions," said MOH in a statement.
It added that the benchmarks should also serve as a guide for private sector healthcare providers to charge appropriately.
For the removal of an appendix, the recommended fee for private sector anaesthetists is between $1,130 and $1,800 before goods and services tax.
The fee is currently around $1,500 to $1,750 including GST, said MOH.
In the case of a total knee replacement for one leg, the benchmark recommends that they charge between $1,670 and $2,400 before GST.
Private sector anaesthetists currently charge around $2,140 to $2,675 including GST.
The fee benchmarks were recommended by the Fee Benchmarks Advisory Committee (FBAC) and accepted in full by MOH last Wednesday.
The ministry said that the advisory committee's fee ranges take into account the anaesthesia risks associated with the surgery and any added complexity arising from the patient's condition, independent of the surgical complexity of the procedure.
The advisory committee also sought to ensure that fees charged are fair and reasonable, and commensurate with the anaesthetist's risks and efforts, said MOH.
It added that the advisory committee had reviewed data, such as historical transacted fees and inflation rates, and consulted numerous stakeholders over 10 sessions held in November and December.
The stakeholders comprised about 200 specialists from the College of Anaesthesiologists, Singapore, representatives from the professional bodies, public and private sector medical professionals, as well as insurers.
"These help to ensure that the benchmarks reflect a fair range of professional fees that are representative of the risks and effort undertaken by doctors, while balancing other stakeholders' interests and perspectives," said MOH.
Under the new inpatient attendance fee benchmarks, it is recommended that during office hours, doctors in the general ward charge $200 to $400 a day, those in the high-dependency unit charge $250 to $500 a day, and those in the Intensive Care Unit dealing with lower intensity cases charge $300 to $600 a day.
MOH said that the development of fee benchmarks for private healthcare providers is part of a larger strategy to ensure healthcare costs remain affordable and keep Singapore's healthcare system sustainable.
This is the second set of fee benchmarks published by the ministry, following the surgeon fee benchmarks for common surgical procedures published in 2018.
Dr Lim Yean Teng, chairman of the advisory committee said that following the publication of the first set of fee benchmarks, a majority of doctors started charging within the recommended benchmarks, which helped moderate the growth of healthcare costs here.
"For the fee benchmarks to be effective, the FBAC encourages all stakeholders to use them reasonably as a reference for fair charging and payment," he said.
The full list of fee benchmarks can be found here.
MOH also announced that it had appointed new members to the FBAC to advise on the review of published fee benchmarks and develop additional areas of fee benchmarks from next year.
This includes the appointment of Dr Wee Siew Bock, a senior consultant and general surgeon in private practice, as chairman of the committee from July next year.
The ministry said: "The FBAC will continue to be a diverse group that represents the interests of various stakeholders, including representatives from the medical community and healthcare providers, payers from the public and private sectors, patient advocates and layman, and academia."