Focus View
Time to cap hospital charges
None | 17 Nov 2017 00:30
The government’s decision to consider capping fees and other charges in private hospitals is good news for patients. 

There have been increasing complaints that patients at these hospitals had been saddled with shockingly high medical bills.
A recent report said a patient was slapped with a RM450,000 medical bill after being warded at a private hospital in the Klang Valley for two and a half months. He was later transferred to a government hospital but died two weeks later. 

The government’s discussions with private hospitals will be on how to widen the current price controls from doctor’s charges to include fees and treatment charged by hospitals.

Currently, there is no cap on private hospital charges for admissions, nursing care, laboratory tests, medicines, disposable equipment or intensive care unit charges.
There have been calls for some time from various quarters for private hospital fees and charges to be capped or at least monitored by the relevant authorities.

Many private hospitals charge exorbitant fees, especially if patients have medical insurance.
Some may argue that patients who cannot afford private hospitals should seek treatment at government hospitals. However, it must be pointed out that the high charges at private hospitals will have a ripple effect on the cost of private healthcare.

When private hospitals overcharge, it leads to higher costs for insurance companies. The insurers will then raise their premiums, which will in turn see patients paying more for policies.
If this vicious cycle goes on, there will be no end to spiralling costs and rising premiums. The end losers will of course be consumers.
The government is suggesting private hospitals adopt the “bundling” system whereby patients are charged a single fee for all treatment relating to a certain sickness, for example heart surgery.

Unexpected extra charges are borne by the hospitals. Many hospitals abroad have adopted this system.

It is vital the cap on charges by private hospitals be implemented. After all, if there can be a cap on doctor fees, why should private hospitals be exempt?

Private hospitals can’t argue that their charges are based on their cost structure. Why build expensive hospitals then? They should provide services for the sick and not earn excessive profits. 

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