MOH publishes private surgeon charges

PHOTO: The Straits Times, Reuters

Patients can now have an idea of how much private sector surgeons charge for their services, and perhaps even negotiate a better rate.

The Ministry of Health (MOH), which started publishing operation fees in public hospitals in 2014, has expanded the list to include total operation fees in private hospitals.

The ministry says this will increase fees transparency and help patients make informed decisions.

On top of that, the list gives a breakdown of the private sector bill, separating the surgeon's fee, the anaesthetist's fee and facility costs, such as use of the operating theatre.

The fees put up by MOH are a range, with the lower amount reflecting the 25th percentile charged and the higher amount the 75th percentile. This means that a quarter of patients pay less than the lower amount and an equal number pay more than the higher rate.

For instance, to remove the appendix, half the patients in the private sector pay $9,928 to $13,128, with the surgeon pocketing $4,500 to $6,420 of this sum.

A private patient in a public hospital pays less than $3,000.

This move will help illuminate what is currently an opaque area.

There are no fee guidelines for doctors. Many private specialists fix their own fees which could differ greatly between two surgeons operating in the same hospital.

In general, half the cost paid by patients goes to the surgeon.

As a result, there have been cases of doctors overcharging, the most prominent being Susan Lim's bill for treating a Bruneian royalty that amounted to $24.8 million for seven months.

The move was welcomed by Chia Shi Lu, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health.

Dr Chia, an orthopaedic surgeon at Singapore General Hospital, said it would help both patients and doctors in financial discussions.

If the doctor is charging a lot more than the range given, then he will have to explain to the patient.

It could be because of the doctor's greater experience, or because the case is more complex, explained Dr Chia.

The fees were taken from data submitted by hospitals between July 1, 2014 and Dec 31, 2015.

Said the ministry: "Such information will enable patients who are considering treatment at private hospitals to estimate the fees charged by the doctors and the hospital for the various listed procedures."

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