S'poreans owe public hospitals $40m in unpaid bills

PHOTO: S'poreans owe public hospitals $40m in unpaid bills

SINGAPORE - Singapore public hospitals were owed $110 million in outstanding patient debts as of end-2011, said Minister of Health Mr Gan Kim Yong.

This is up from the total arrears owed by patients that exceeded two months on a cumulative basis of $75 million as of end-2008, and include arrears brought forward from prior years.

For 2011 bills alone, there were 136,000 bills outstanding for two months or more, translating to $48 million in total arrears. More than 80 per cent of these outstanding bills were incurred by Singaporean patients, he added.

Mr Gan was replying In a written answer to a question from Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NMP) Ms Lina Chiam.

These figures also include patients who are paying their outstanding bills by instalments or awaiting assessment for financial assistance by the hospitals.

Mr Gan said that while more than 96 per cent of patients settle their bills within two months and a significant portion of the debts are eventually recovered or paid up over time, there is still a significant amount of bad debt written off each year.

The total amount written off in FY2008, FY2009 and FY2010 was $27 million, $26 million and $37 million respectively.

As for what means hospitals take to recover the debt, Mr Gan said reminders will generally be sent through phone or mail if they do not settle their bills within a month.

There will be subsequent reminders in the following months, but if there is still no response, some hospitals may refer the case to an authorised debt collection agency to collect the arrears on their behalf, he added.

However, if a patient expresses problems paying his or her hospital bill, the hospital will assess the case and explore options for financial assistance, such as instalment payments or Medifund assistance, he said.