Subsidy and Other Preoccupations 10
An anonymous doctor made this comment on an earlier post which angry doc thinks is worth replying to in a separate post:
My wife is currently pregnant. 25 weeks gestation at the moment.
She had premature contractions.
We went to KKH.
Thoughts ran through my head about what would happen if our 25 week old baby were to be delivered.
Mortality is high. Morbidity is high. A several month stay in Neonatal ICU would cost a lot of money if we were not in C class.
These issues are real. Even for a doctor myself earning a comfortable income, a several hundred thousand dollar hospital bill followed by having to bring up a child with possible disabilities is a very sobering thought.
Luckily for us, no premature delivery occurred.
I hate to say this to you angry doc, but perhaps you need to have a loved one close to you be struck down with illness and then have the government tell you that you can't go to C class because you do not earn <$1000 a month and then later on be saddled with debt of several hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I know someone has to pay for it. But I am still happier paying higher taxes so that all of us do not have to worry so much about the cost of saving our loved ones.
To be frank at one stage I was thinking, it might be better if my soon to be born permature son die swiftly rather than for KKH's neonatologists try to save him.
Certainly isn't a good thought but it did cross my mind. :(
Certainly if angry doc's loved one needed expensive treatment, he would like to receive as much subsidy as he could.
And that's exactly the point of means testing.
Let's look at some figures.
Let's start with a total hospitalisation bill of say $300,000, which is close to the figure in the example provided by LuckSingaporean and the (in)famous KKH premature baby case.
With C-class subsidy, the final bill will be 20% or $60,000.
Assuming a 2-month stay (again using the figure from LuckySingaporean's example and assuming that a baby delievered at 25-weeks gestation is discharged at 34-weeks), at a daily withdrawal limit of $400, Medisave can be used to pay for $24,000 of the bill, leaving an out-of-pocket bill of $36,000.
At B2-class rates, the final bill is 35% or $105,000, with an out-of-pocket bill of $81,000.
Failing means testing does not mean that a patient has to pay the entire sum of $300,000.
Of course, $81,000 is still a lot of money, and if angry doc had to come up with that kind of money, it would mean working harder and scrimping. But can he, in all honestly, say that it is unaffordable?
Assuming angry doc makes $100,000 a year, do you think it is fair that he gets C-class subsidy, and lets tax money take care of the $45,000 difference?
Do you think it is fair for someone who earns more than angry doc (say $600,000 a year) to let tax money pay for the difference?
When looking an extreme example of a $300,000 bill, it is easy to think that anyone but the richest should be entitled to subsidy. However, most hospitalisation bills come up to (only) several hundred or thousand dollars. Is it fair then for angry doc to let tax money pay for the several hundred or thousand dollars in difference, when he can (presumably with his doctor's pay) easily afford it?
angry doc returns to his point that means testing, when it comes to something as variable as hospitalisation in the acute hospital, is a crude tool. At a lower end of the spectrum we may be able to accept saving more tax money by giving people who can afford it less subsidy, but at the higher end of the spectrum I think we can all agree that it can be hard even for those whom we would usually consider well-off. Means testing in its current proposed form does not consider this, and angry doc believes this is why many fear it.
Or maybe it's just that we all just don't want to pay more when we can pay less.
Added: angry doc would once again like to state that he believes subsidy should be tied to a patient's need for treatment rather than a patient's income level.
Labels: means testing