Who are the real beneficiaries of overinflated costs in our public healthcare system?

Below is an email sent by blogger Phillip Ang to Pritam Singh of the Worker’s Party:

Dear Pritam Singh

MOH appears to have overpaid for consultation, medications, etc. This issue was highlighted to Sylvia Lim and copied to you last year.

Did you guys not understand my feedback? If there were factual inaccuracies or wrong assumptions, the least you could have done was highlight them to me. But you have chosen to behave as arrogantly as PAP.

Healthcare subsidies appear to be overly-generous only because the PAP government first overinflated costs. I will again use polyclinic bills (consultation fee) to illustrate my point.

pa1

From the bill above, the full amount of $41.68 is obviously incorrect because this could be more than double the amount charged by a private GP for short consultations, eg clinic in Tampines St 21 charges only $18. Even for long consultations, rates at private GPs are much lower.

Polyclinics are located in HDB estates and costs should be pegged to private clinics nearby.

It defies common sense to price the cost (“full amount”) of a polyclinic GP consultation at $41.68. The “full amount” should be much lower at polyclinics because of:
– A much longer wait time
– More inconvenience
– Generic medicine
– Less experienced doctors most of the time
– No rental cost

If a private GP charges $20 to $25 for consultation, one would expect a polyclinic to charge the “full amount” of about $10 to $15 at most. But this is obviously not going to happen as the generous subsidy suddenly vanishes into thin air when patients are required to pay $11.80.

Why did MOH set the consultation “full amount” at a ridiculously high $41.68 across the board, regardless of short or long consultation?

The “full amount” of $41.68 is an expenditure to the government but MOH clearly did not incur such a cost. Since this amount is incorrect, the subsidy of $29.88 must be almost non existent. Which begs the question:

Who are the real beneficiaries when costs are overinflated?

Polyclinics not only overcharge the consultation fee ‘full amount’, they even overcharge for medication (image below).

PA2.png

For example, Paracetamol which retails online for less than $0.40 per packet of 16 tablets, MOH priced the cost of a generic drug at more than $5, equivalent to more than 12 packets. This despite bulk purchases in the tens/hundreds of thousands of tablets.

MOH has clearly overpaid for medications which must have included a huge markup for profit. Questions:

– Which companies do MOH purchase medications from?
– Why is MOH agreeable to a huge profit markup?
– Are profits generated subsequently returned to the government?
– Are there no cheaper alternative drug companies?

Since there were about 5 million polyclinic visits last year, a non existent subsidy of, say, $20 per patient would have cost taxpayers an additional $100 million. What about overinflated “full amount” at public hospitals?

Despite having increased healthcare operating expenditure by 50% from FY 2013 to FY 2015, benefits have hardly trickled down to Singaporeans. In fact, costs have increased for most. What’s really happening?

WP MPs are in a position to prevent the arbitrary overinflating of healthcare costs and shed light on the ridiculously-high “full amount”. Who are the real beneficiaries of overinflated costs in our public healthcare system?

Regards
Phillip Ang

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