Lack of transparency in bills

My company requires all employees to be covered under an Integrated Health Plan, and a sum is deducted from my monthly salary to pay for the insurance.

While I believe patients under the plan are charged preferred rates, they do not really know how much less they are paying.

When I visited a clinic recently, I did not need to pay any cash. However, out of curiosity, I asked about the total cost. The receptionist was unable to give me an answer, and said the total amount was not tallied yet.

Surely, any clinic should be able to advise patients on the final bill, regardless of whether the patient is covered by insurance.

Since there was no receipt and no breakdown of costs, how do insurance companies ensure that clinics are not overcharging?

Most clinics require patients to declare during registration whether they are covered by insurance. This seems to be a potential conflict of interest.

Supplier-induced demand is a concern, especially in the medical industry where there is information asymmetry between the patient and the doctor.

While a patient covered by insurance may think he is enjoying cost savings, in the long run, he may end up paying more in the form of higher premiums as clinics administer more medicine.

Do the relevant medical boards have measures to address this lack of transparency in billing for employees under company medical insurance plans? Are there checks in place to prevent or reduce instances of overcharging?

Andrew Chia Teck Fatt

This article was first published on July 09, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.