More transparency on healthcare fees essential: Health Minister

PHOTO: More transparency on healthcare fees essential: Health Minister

SINGAPORE - A greater transparency in healthcare fees is essential for the empowerment of patients and for market forces to work more efficiently, said Minister of Health Gan Kim Yong in Parliament today.

He was responding to question by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Sam Tan on whether the health ministry can reintroduce fee guidelines and improve financial counselling for patients.

Mr Gan said that the Ministry of Health (MOH) currently requires clinics to display their charges, and also provide bill size comparisons on the MOH website.

All hospitals are also required to provide financial counselling upfront to help patients estimate their bills, he added.

However, MOH is further exploring how the Government can do more through various means to educate patients on healthcare fees.

One possibility the ministry is looking into is to publish more information on the professional fees that public sector doctors charge for their services.

Another possibility is to make it mandatory for hospitals to give their patients a comparison of their estimated charges against the published fees in the MOH website as part of the financial counselling process.

Mr Gan said MOH is in the midst of studying the options available.

Mr Gan also agreed with Mr Tan's speech on how patients need to be better educated not only in their finances but also in terms of the treatment outcomes to make informed decisions concerning their care.

He said that MOH will work with the community to step up their public education efforts and improve Singaporeans' financial literacy about healthcare.