Tweak insurance riders to curb healthcare cost: Task force

PHOTO: The Straits Times

A task force set up to look at the rising cost of insurance in Singapore has suggested sweeping measures like doing away with riders that allow insured patients to get away with paying nothing towards their own treatment.

It has also suggested that insurers have panels of preferred health providers that charge reasonable fees. Patients can still opt for other doctors but this could affect the amount of their bill covered by insurance.

Premiums for integrated plans, that sit atop MediShield Life, are set to have been frozen for a year, but are poised to go up once the moratorium is lifted in November.

The Straits Times understands that premiums for private hospital plans could then rise by 9 to 15 per cent.

The task force, which was set up by the Life Insurance Association of Singapore and included members from the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, also suggested medical fee benchmarks or guidelines to reduce overcharging.

Guidelines are currently not allowed here as they are seen as anti-competition.

The task force also proposed tweaks to allow insurers to raise suspected inappropriate or excessive treatments with the Singapore Medical Council.

The issue of riders, which cover the entire medical bill, clearly bothered the panel which noted that patients with riders run up bills that are 20 to 25 per cent higher than those who have to bear a share of the cost.

The task force suggested the six insurance companies offering IPs to tweak their products so patients pay a share of the bill to prevent the "buffet syndrome", while ensuring that existing policyholders are not put at a disadvantage.

MOH called the report "timely and commendable" and agreed with it on the issue of co-payment.

"The absence of any co-payment may encourage over-consumption by some patients and over-servicing of over-charging by some healthcare providers which will eventually increase healthcare costs and insurance premiums for all Singaporeans," it said.

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