Saturday, April 20, 2019

Paying Kickbacks In Private Healthcare Clinics

ST 200419
Last year, we wrote about three local hospitals paying kickbacks to foreign medical agents to introduce patients from overseas who were seeking treatment.

After the Ministry of Health (MOH) outlawed this practice of paying fees to foreign agents, there's information to suggest that these mercenary agents have changed their focus to target private hospitals and doctors who work in private practice.

There is also evidence to suggest that local agents may actually be staff working in the private hospitals. They could be local Singapore staff or foreign staff working in our private hospitals. The foreign staff would be in a good position to discuss kickback fees on behalf of foreign agents.

These agents not only wanted a fixed retainer fee ($10,000), they also wanted to be paid a percentage of medical charges, which is banned under present guidelines. Apparently these rogue agents "shop around" and choose doctors who pay them the highest commissions.

For we all know, this practice of paying under-table payments/ kickbacks may have gone on before it started in our public hospitals as it is definitely easier to negotiate with  doctors in private practice and private hospitals.

The newspaper report also suggested that illegal transplant organ services may be touted as well though it wasn't clear if they took place in Singapore.

When kickback schemes like these are in practice, doctors in private practice would likely raise their fees to pay for whatever extra "costs" that are incurred. It is bad practices like this that leads to fee increases, increases in health insurance premiums and Mediasave-approved Integrated shield plans.

Have a look at the article in today's Straits Times on page B2 under the Home section.

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