CHARIS MUN: The experience from my two stays in a private hospital earlier this year does not bear out the assumption that doctors’ bills contribute most to the rising cost of private health care.In my case, the hospital’s charges amounted to almost 80 per cent of the total bill, while the fees for the surgeon and anaesthesiologist made up around 20 per cent.
One major cause of high medical costs is the mark-up for basic medication and supplies. Examples of what I paid for (before goods and services tax) include:
-$10.61 for a tablet of augmentin (compared with $2.20 at my surgeon’s clinic)
-$18.93 for a sodium chloride infusion and $13.63 for hepsal (both used for flushing intravenous devices)
-$4.54 for a safety pin
-$4.51 for a small foam cup
-$74.69 for a small abdominal binder
-$5.12 for six pieces of gauze
-more than $50 for using an infusion pump for one day
The charges levied would not have included any service element as there was already a daily treatment fee of around $150, on top of the charges for room and board (the same amount is charged even when no food is provided). Moreover, the unit cost for operating theatre/laboratory/radiology charges can vary even though they bear the same service code and description. There is no way to verify any differences in the charges because of the arbitrary manner in which they are levied.
Patients also need to scrutinise their bills and ask for supporting records, to check for any errors. When I asked for my records, I noticed several errors, including records of medication having been given to me intravenously at times when there was no intravenous line.
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