The Ministry of Health (MOH) Singapore has established a 13-member committee to help develop medical fee benchmarks for common medical procedures. The first set of fee guidelines will be ready by the second half of 2018.

Examples of common procedures that constitute 80% to 85% of procedures performed by public and private hospitals include cataracts surgery, appendectomy and gastroscopy.

“The coverage will be gradually extended following this first release, and could eventually include benchmarks for consultation fees and laboratory tests,” said Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min.

“The committee members were selected based on their diversity of expertise,” he added. “They will take reference from publication of total operation fees on the Health Ministry’s website.”

Efforts to keep healthcare cost affordable

The MOH hopes patients will be able to make more informed choices when seeking treatment and determine if their doctor is charging them appropriately.
The MOH hopes patients will be able to make more informed choices when seeking treatment and determine if their doctor is charging them appropriately.

The MOH currently publishes total operation fees for a variety of procedures on their website. With this effort, patients will be able to make more informed choices when seeking treatment and determine if their doctor is charging them appropriately.

"We would like to urge patients not to just look at the price, but to look at their needs as well," pointed out Dr Lam.

The fee benchmark is part of "a larger strategy to keep healthcare costs affordable and sustainable", echoed Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat.

It will also help the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), the professional watchdog, to identify the doctors who overcharge and take action against them. This is to ensure that others will not take them as an example, consequently, increasing healthcare costs for everyone.

“For doctors who charge above the benchmarks, they must have a strong justification because each case is different; the complexity as well as the duration of the operation or consultation may differ,” added Mr Chee.

Concerns for anti-competitive price-fixing

In 2007, the Singapore Medical Association (SMA) had their fee benchmarks for doctors withdrawn as they were deemed anti-competitive and could be violating competition laws.

The healthcare inflation has since been reduced to 1.2% between 2013 and 2016, thanks to recent government measures such as the Pioneer Generation Package, MediShield Life subsidies and the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).

The new guidelines, however, will not run afoul of these laws, as they are set by the MOH itself with advice from the committee comprising medical providers from both public and private sectors, academics, representatives from hospitals and insurance associations.

Mr Chee added that employers and insurers can help curb the rising costs of healthcare by encouraging their employees and policyholders to use healthcare services prudently.
The committee will meet monthly for a start, and is expected to carry out its work over two or three years, added Dr Lam. MIMS

Members of the Committee:
1. Dr Lim Yean Teng (chairman)
Senior consultant cardiologist in private practice; previously worked in the public healthcare sector for 24 years

2. Dr Ang Chong Lye
Senior consultant ophthalmologist at the Singapore National Eye Centre

3. Mr Benedict Cheong
Chief executive of non-profit organisation Temasek Foundation International

4. Dr Ho Kok Sun
Council member of the Academy of Medicine Singapore

5. Mr Karthikeyan Krishnamurthy
Vice-president of the National Trades Union Congress Central Committee

6. Dr Lam Kian Ming
Chief executive of Mount Alvernia Hospital

7. Dr Lim Hui Ling
Honorary assistant secretary for the College of Family Physicians Singapore

8. Ms Ngiam Siew Ying
Deputy secretary (policy) at the Health Ministry

9. Dr Phua Kai Hong
Health economist and faculty member at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

10. Dr Tan Boon Yeow
Chief executive of St Luke’s Hospital; also holds appointments in academia

11. Dr Toh Choon Lai
Council member of the Singapore Medical Association

12. Mr Richard Wyber
Chairman of the health insurance task force working group of the Life Insurance Association of Singapore

13. Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed
Non-resident ambassador for Kuwait and the Foreign Minister’s Special Envoy for the Middle East

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