Govt will take up proposal to regulate private doctors’ fees

THE Government will take up a suggestion made by an MP on Saturday that it regulate fees of private doctors treating Medisave patients, said Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

“We will have to study carefully to make sure we get the right scheme – not too loose and not too ineffective,” said Brigadier-General (Res) Lee.

BG Lee, who chairs the ministerial committee on health policies, said this when he was asked by reporters to comment on a suggestion by Health GPC chairman Loh Meng See that the Government apply fee regulation to both the public and private sectors.

Mr Loh, a Kampong Glam GRC MP, had told a health cost seminar that he welcomed the committee’s proposals to cap fee increases at Government and restructured hospitals, the number of class A wards in them, and fees that private hospitals could charge patients using Medisave.

But he argued that private sector charges, if left unchecked, could lead to higher incomes for medical staff. This would force the public sector to raise the salaries of their own staff to retain them, thus pushing up health care costs in the public sector.

He called on the Government to regulate the fees that private doctors could charge patients using Medisave for treatment and suggested that fee schedules could be drawn up by medical bodies. They could be reviewed by the Health Ministry or the proposed Public Health Council.

Speaking to reporters at his constituency’s Tree Planting drive in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, BG Lee agreed that rising expenses in the private health sector would affect the public sector.

“On the other hand, if we regulate the private sector too tightly, then they cannot operate and there is no point having a private sector at all,” he said.

“So somewhere inbetween, we must find a way to control it.”

The Government has first to set up a system that can control private sector business treating Medisave patients.

Then the Health Council can oversee it and keep it up to date and help it to evolve.”

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