The Ministry of Health (MOH) suspects doctors at three general practitioner (GP) clinics might have been cheating it by making claims for treatments that were not done.
Bedok Day & Night Clinic, Jurong Day & Night Clinic and MW Medical Centre (Cross Street) face suspension from the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) if the doctors cannot give "satisfactory" explanations for their actions within two weeks.
Even if suspended, the clinics can continue to run, but cannot get the Chas subsidy for their patients.
Under Chas, the MOH pays part of the bill for about 1.3 million patients who have Chas or Pioneer Generation cards when they see private doctors.
Although the MOH is giving the doctors a fortnight to explain, it has already referred the cases to the police and "the doctors allegedly involved in these errant practices" to the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), the professional watchdog, for further investigation.
An MOH statement yesterday said: "The three clinics had over a period of time made numerous non-compliant Chas claims, including claims for consultations and treatments which were not performed."
These are the first GP clinics to face possible suspension from Chas. The MOH had suspended two dental clinics, Phoenix Dental Surgery clinics in Ang Mo Kio and Marine Parade, for similar reasons. They are also under police probe.
There are 950 GP and 700 dental clinics on the Chas scheme. In 2015, MOH paid out $167 million in subsidies for treatment given to 650,000 Singaporeans.
Previously, not all GPs and dentists would tell patients how much their total bills were. In many cases, because the patients did not need to pay, or paid only a small amount, few complained. For pioneers who get the highest subsidy, Chas pays up to $28.50 when they see a GP for common problems, and as much as $135 for complex chronic ailments.
Nevertheless, the ministry received about 300 complaints, largely about incorrect billing or high fees, between 2013 and 2015.
To tighten the system, all Chas clinics have to provide patients with itemised bills, even if they do not need to pay a cent, from this year.
Associate Professor Benjamin Ong, MOH's director of Medical Services, said the ministry closely monitors Chas claims.
He said: "When there are cases of significant non-compliance, MOH will not hesitate to take action."
He reminded doctors that they should "always act in the best interest of the patient" and that they "cannot abuse the doctor-patient relationship for personal gain".