This article was written in partnership with Parkway Hospitals. Views expressed are the independent opinion of DollarsAndSense.sg
Private hospitals play a vital role in Singapore’s healthcare eco-system, operating alongside public hospitals to alleviate the patient caseload and offering more choices. According to the Ministry of Health, there are currently 9 public hospitals and 8 private hospitals.
Despite their importance, private hospitals also carry along with them some misconceptions in the minds of many Singaporeans, such as them being exorbitantly expensive and thus only being suitable for those who are crazy rich or have really good health insurance policies.
These misconceptions are unfortunate, since Singaporeans could be making decisions on which type of hospital to visit based on inaccurate assumptions regarding affordability or options.
Having a correct understanding about private hospitals will allow Singaporeans to make an informed decision regarding medical care for themselves or their loved ones.
Myth # 1: MediShield Life Does Not Cover Treatments At Private Hospitals
You may be well-aware that with a comprehensive integrated shield plan and rider, you could enjoy up to 100% coverage for treatment at private hospitals. This is why, out of the 3.9 million Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents under MediShield Life, 68% also have an integrated shield plan.
However, there is a misconception that if you do not have an integrated shield plan and you visit a private hospital, you can’t make any claims using MediShield Life.
The truth is, if you are warded in a private hospital, you will still receive the same payout amount from MediShield Life. This is because the claimable amount is sized to the subsidised bills of Class B2/C wards at public hospitals.
You just have a larger bill, which you can pay using other insurance policies, MediSave, or cash.
Myth # 2: Doctors And Consultants At Private Hospitals Are Employees Of The Hospital
Unlike doctors and surgeons at public hospitals, who are employed by the hospital, the majority of doctors who operate at private hospitals are business owners of their own medical practice.
To support these doctors, private hospitals provide important ancillary services, such as wards, operating rooms, nurses, administrative support, and a network of fellow doctors for multi-disciplinary, integrated care.
If you are already in the care of a specialist who is based in one private hospital, you can still request to be warded and treated at another private hospital of your choice. For example, if you are pregnant and seeing a gynaecologist who is based in Gleneagles Hospital, you can choose for your delivery to be done at Mount Elizabeth Hospital by the same gynaecologist, and vice versa.
Understanding this is important, since you are free to select your doctor based on their expertise, while choosing the hospital that best suits your budget and preferences.
Myth # 3: All Private Hospital Wards Are The Same
When thinking of private hospitals, you’ll be forgiven if you think that all the wards are the same (expensive) single-bedded rooms.
In an effort to offer more affordable choices to Singaporeans of all walks of life, Parkway Hospitals has recently revised their room charges for Singaporean patients for their 4-bedded rooms.
The rates for 4-bedded rooms at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Orchard) and Gleneagles Hospital have been revised on weekends, and Parkway East Hospital revised their 4-bedded room and hospital charges for both weekdays and weekends.
For example, the daily rate at a 4-bedded ward at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Orchard) is $276.00, and the weekend rate is $220.80.
With these 4-bedded rooms, you enjoy the same quality and care at these renowned hospitals, but at a much more affordable price.
Do note that these rates are only for the room charges, and depending on your treatment and medication needs, additional fees will apply.
Myth # 4: It’s Almost Impossible To Estimate Costs For A Private Hospital Stay
The Ministry of Health has been working with the private sector to improve transparency for medical costs, so there should not be any shock when you see your hospital bill during checkout, especially for procedures which are fairly standard. The most recent of these efforts resulting in private sector surgery fee benchmarks being made available.
With more price transparency in private healthcare, patients are able to make comparisons across various hospitals and make informed decisions on where they wish to receive care.
Parkway Hospitals, for example, is a private healthcare group that publishes historical prices of common medical procedures online. You can see bill sizes for hospital and doctor fees for selected procedures from Gleneagles Hospital, Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, and Parkway East Hospital.
Part of the admission process also includes an estimate on the full bill amount, as well as explanations on possible contingencies and how much they would cost.
Parkway Hospitals also offer fixed price packages for common procedures, such as maternity, cataract surgery, kidney stones removal, and diagnostic gastroscopy/colonoscopy.
These packages include all hospital and doctor fees, and helps provide certainty and peace of mind over hospital bills. For example, here are the packages and prices for Parkway East Hospital.
Myth # 5: Choosing The Cheapest Option Saves You Money
Most of us would naturally understand that buying the cheapest product might not always help you save money. For example, paying more for a power-efficient appliance could save you money in the long run. A car that doesn’t require much maintenance is much cheaper to own and operate over 10 years compared to one which may be cheaper today, but would require higher maintenance cost, or which is less fuel-efficient.
Private healthcare is perceived as being more costly because of their typically higher listed prices. But there could be situations where price doesn’t give the full picture.
If you have the opportunity to shorten your waiting time for diagnostics and early intervention, you could reduce the chance that your condition will worsen and that you may require more invasive or complicated procedures, which end up saving you money. At Parkway Hospitals’ accident and emergency departments, the average wait time is 30 minutes and 24 hours to see a specialist.
Beyond cost, the value for you or your loved ones to get faster access to care when they are in pain is intangible but highly significant.
Changing The Way We View Private Healthcare
With rising healthcare costs, many Singaporeans instinctively disregard private healthcare as a financially viable avenue to receive medical care, unless they specifically bought comprehensive health insurance for this purpose.
However, private healthcare providers like Parkway Hospitals have been working to give Singaporeans more healthcare options. These include revised weekend rates for 4-bedded wards, fixed priced bundle packages, as well as price transparency.
If you’d like to learn more about the 4-bedded programme or Parkway Hospitals’ services, you can give them a call at 6812 3371 (Mount Elizabeth Hospital), 6812 3370 (Gleneagles Hospital), 6812 3372 (Parkway East Hospital).
Now that you have a better understanding about how private hospitals work, you’ll be best equipped to weigh the costs and benefits of all the various hospitalisation options.