Charging system led health fee hikes

Charges for outpatient care have
increased by 20 per cent last year, according to an Economics and Statistics
Office report.

The increases were made in January
last year when the Health Services Authority implemented a new system of charging
for outpatient health services.

Chief Executive Officer of the
Health Services Authority, Lizzette Yearwood, said fee increases were made when
the new “Charge Master” system was put in place at the hospital. Previously
fees had to be prescribed by the Fees Law.

“The process also included
adjustment in some fees, which had not been increased since 2006 and were well
below the cost of providing these services,” said Ms Yearwood.

“These adjustments varied according
to the service and the new charges were linked to the reasonable and customary
charges set by the Health Insurance Commission,” she added.

She said other services remained at
the 2006 rate and charges for those “fall well below the reasonable and customary
charges, which is used for reimbursement to the private sector”.

She said costs for most commonly
used healthcare services such as physician consultations, supplies and
ancillary services such as lab, radiology and physiotherapy were still charged
at 2006 rates.

Ms Yearwood said the Charge Master
system was an internationally accepted system used by hospitals worldwide and is
increasingly required by insurance companies for standardised coding.

The Economics and Statistics
Office’s consumer price index for September to December 2009 showed that the
health care charges rose by 14.9 per cent, with outpatient care rising by 20.1
per cent, medical products, appliances and equipment going up by 1.8 per cent
and hospital services increasing by 0.2 per cent.

“As there had been a gap of three
years in the adjustment of fees, the cost for some services the percentage
price adjustment is reflected in the data [in] the Consumer Price Report from
the Economic and Statistics Department September to December 2009,” Ms Yearwood

She said the new system had led to
fewer claim denials by insurance companies, use of common industry accepted
codes, guidelines and procedures for patient billing and increased credibility
and consistency in patient billing.