Committee formed to offer medical fee benchmarks

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The Health Ministry has established a 13-member committee to come up with "reasonable" national benchmarks for medical fees.

The committee includes doctors, academics and representatives from the Government as well as insurance and non-profit sectors.

It announced in November the plan to produce government-backed benchmarks as part of a move to keep healthcare costs in check.

Providing an update on the move yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min announced the setting up of the committee and said the first set of fee guidelines for common medical procedures will be ready by the second half of this year.

These procedures account for 80 per cent to 85 per cent of operations at all hospitals here.

The coverage will be gradually extended following this first release, and could eventually include benchmarks for consultation fees and laboratory tests, said Dr Lam.

The Singapore Medical Association used to publish fee benchmarks for doctors.

But these were withdrawn in 2007 as they were deemed anti-competitive.

The new guidelines will not run afoul of these laws because they are backed by the Health Ministry itself.

Currently, the Health Ministry publishes on its website total operation fees for a variety of procedures. These help patients decide if their bills are considered large.

Said Dr Lam: "We would like to urge patients not to just look at the price, but to look at their needs as well."

He added that doctors who charge above the benchmark for a certain procedure should have a "strong justification" - for instance, if the operation is unusually long or complex.