High hospital fees to hit poor hardest
|Two patients share one bed at Saint Paul's Hospital in Ha Noi, where many hospitals are struggling to cope with an overload of patients. – VNA/VNS Photo Huu Oai
HA NOI — Many hospitals nationwide have planned to raise medical fees to the highest level allowed under current regulations, regardless of their differences in quality of services or medical infrastructure, according to an official from the Health Insurance Department.
"If proposals to charge the highest possible fees are approved, people's lives will surely be affected, since even health insurance holders have to pay 20 per cent of their medical costs," said department head Le Van Phuc.
Meanwhile, he noted, only 65 per cent of people nationwide have health insurance coverage, while in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, the figure is only 55 per cent.
Last April, new regulations were issued jointly by the ministries of Health and Finance that stipulated methods for calculating hospital fees. The Ministry of Health recently issued a list of 447 fees for different services as a reference for clinics and hospitals nationwide. The list allowed increases of up to 20 times current levels.
Hospitals in 10 cities and provinces subsequently proposed that they apply the highest allowable fees, Phuc said. These fee levels, however, were only intended to be applied at four top hospitals, including Bach Mai Hospital and Army Hospital 108 in Ha Noi, Cho Ray Hospital in HCM City and Hue Central Hospital.
Hospitals in 15 other cities and provinces have proposed raising fees to 85 to 90 per cent of allowed levels, claiming that they were suffering under rising costs. These include facilities in in rural and remote areas such as Cao Bang, Lao Cai, Dak Lak, Son La and Vinh Long provinces. Hospitals in major cities such as Ha Noi and Hai Phong have sought to increase fees to 73 and 72 per cent of allowed maximums, respectively.
Phuc also said the fee hikes would worsen the overloading of central hospitals, where three patients often share a single hospital bed.
"Patients will now rush to central hospitals for treatment due to lower costs and better quality," he said.
According to Phuc, the social insurance agency has urged local authorities to revise fee increase proposals at local hospitals to suit local income levels and avoid overspending in the health insurance fund. — VNS