Singapore Health: Committee formed to set benchmark fees for medical procedures

Will new guidelines for medical procedures' fees make lives easier for Singaporeans?

Medical committee Singapore
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A 13-member committee has been set up to look into fee benchmarks for medical services and procedure in Singapore. It will release its first round of benchmarks in the second half of 2018, for medical procedures such as cataract and appendicitis.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has said that this committee will be helpful to patients in deciding their course of treatment. Medical practitioners will also be urged to charge more reasonable fees for the services they provide. Taking reference from past records, the committee will set a benchmark on a range of charges.

Senior Minister for Health Lam Pin Min announced the names of the committee members on Sunday, January 21 at a community event in Anchorvale Community Club.

Lim Yean Teng, a senior consultant cardiologist, will be the chief in this initiative, which will include medical representatives, healthcare providers and non-profit organizations working in this field.

Other members include senior consultant ophthalmologist and former Singapore General Hospital chief executive Ang Chong Lye, Temasek Foundation International chief executive Benedict Cheong, vice-president of the National Trades Union Congress central committee Karthikeyan Krishnamurthy and Zainul Abidin Rasheed, former Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

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The first meeting of the committee is scheduled for February or March and it will meet every month, reports Today Online. It is expected to work for two or three years.

The present rates for medical procedures are displayed in the Ministry of Health (MOH) website, showing the subsidized and non-subsidised rates. Lam said that common surgical procedures, which form 80 to 85 percent of all services, are the primary concern of the committee, which will set a benchmark of rates convenient for common people.

After this, the committee will deal with less common medical procedures which require experts. Consultation and laboratory fees might be next in line.

"For doctors who charge above the benchmarks, they must have a strong justification because each case is different; the complexity, as well as the duration of the operation or consultation, may differ," says Lam.

The data from the committee will be put up on the MOH website and also distributed to public and private healthcare centers. It will include inputs from doctors who seek guidelines from the Ministry for medical fees.

The Health Ministry had announced its plan to set government-approved benchmarks for medical services in November 2017. The committee will seek assistance and advice from experts if necessary during decision-making.

This article was first published on January 22, 2018