High healthcare cost in Singapore

There is a saying in Singapore: ” you can afford to die but not a long illness in Singapore.” It is a common cause why terminally ill patients choose to die without treatment or end their lives prematurely so as not to drag their family into financial difficulties.

In the early days of Singapore pre-1980s, healthcare costs at the public hospitals and clinics were highly subsidised and healthcare were much more affordable then. The downside were long queues and the poor pays(and thus poor services), but at least the poor still have a cheap alternative to medicine.

Sometime in the 80s and 90s, in the name of restructuring public hospitals, all public hospitals underwent a major overhaul and uplifting, so are the costs associated with healthcare has shot through the roof. The cost difference between public and private hospitals have narrowed significantly despite the formers are highly subsidised by the Government. Many new “public” hospitals such as SGH, KTPH, NUH are newer and more fancied equipment than private hospitals such as Gleneagles, Mount Avernia Hospital. When previous Health minister Khaw Boon Wan decided to publish the healthcare costs on MOH website to force some competitions among the private and public hospitals, it was reported in Straits Times that some operations are more expensive in public hospitals than private hospitals. The difference in costs for many operations are not very different.  A child which have Jaundice and need to warded in ICU will easilyy set you back more than $1500 poorer per night. Someone who is warded in ICU in public hospital need to prepare to fork out at least 15000-20000 for a one week confinement. Many reported cases of cost running into 200k-300k bill for cancer patients have been reported in the press from time to time.

This is a walking time bomb that this Government needs to solve urgrently given the aging population. Short of create a low cost public healthcare or outsource the treatment to cheaper neighbouring countries, the problem is indeed huge and serious. Healthcare was once affordable in Singapore.

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$178.60 medical fee for checking on rashes

Source: Straits Times  20 Oct 2012

MY SON, a reservist, developed a rash after dining on prawns.

He visited Changi General Hospital on Aug 1 and was placed under observation in a ward. Less than 24 hours later, he was discharged as it was nothing serious. The fee: a whopping $178.60.

I am dismayed that the Ministry of Health allows hospitals to charge so much just for consultation and observation for rashes. In Malaysia, it costs no more than RM1 (40 Singapore cents) for consultation and the total bill at a government-funded hospital will cost no more than RM20.

Tan Yan Ren

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