Last week, Salt Lake Community College’s economic students had the opportunity to listen to a guest speaker regarding Singapore’s outstanding healthcare system.
Professor Shawn Flynn, a PhD from Scripps, spoke about Singapore leading the world in a positive direction in healthcare spending and treatment. Flynn began researching this topic about 18 months ago and was excited about what he found. He believes we can implement the Singapore system here; we just have to get everyone on board.
Singapore works off a system of incentives and an emphasis on innovation. “Singapore produces amazing results at much less the cost than most in the world,” Flynn stated. Here is how:
One – Singapore uses a Medi-Save Account (MSA), similar to the Health Savings Account (HSA) here. They force people to put six percent of their income into their MSA. This MSA has a high deductible, which means people pay around 90 percent out of pocket for health visits. Yes, that sounds catastrophic to most because it’s virtually zero healthcare coverage, but it lowers the demand; thus lowering the cost of healthcare.
Two – there is free care for the poor on the government’s dime. If you absolutely cannot put any money into the MSA, you will still get treatment.
Three – the doctors and hospitals have price competition. They literally set up a price menu online or when you walk in to the healthcare facility, which allows you to compare who is charging what at how much. Patients can also rate their care online so others can read the reviews. The competition means better costs and better treatment.
Flynn used a great example of a time he went to one of those small urgent cares that looks like a 7-Eleven. He came back from overseas with a bug, so obviously he needed to get to the doctor quickly so he could get out of the restroom. He went down the road to the urgent care center. What he received was the best treatment he has ever received at an American medical establishment. Not only was he out of the center within a half hour, he had his prescription in hand with detailed instructions and a follow up call from the doctor 10 days later to make sure he took all the pills and felt better. Why does this work? Because we all want to feel like we’re important to the doctor, we like to be treated like we matter. This behavior creates customer loyalty.
Last, Singapore up-sells to subsidize for the poor. They have standard rooms that have 6 beds in a ward that is $99 a night. Then for those who can afford it, they offer luxurious private suites that cost up to $1,400 a night. In these private suites, you get the best care and a private butler; it’s like a 5 star hotel room. If you can afford it, then that’s what you get. It’s about what’s in your budget.
With these few steps the demand decreases, allowing the prices to fall. People are getting better care because the doctors want return customers. It’s a business, not a charity.
I believe the problem with our health care system is people receive insurance that pretty much covers everything. Because people are going to the doctor’s office more often and getting treatment for unnecessary things, they are raising the prices of healthcare.
Next to that, no one really knows how much anything costs because the insurance companies or the government is paying for it. Flynn stated Americans are so used to the idea of “spending others people’s money, or OPM.”
Large businesses are hesitant to transition to HSA because they get tax deductions for insuring their employees. The only problem is if we could get all corporations to only offer the HSA, then employers would have more money to raise wages. Isn’t that a grand idea? They think they’re saving money now, but the long run effect is happier employees and paying less for healthcare insurance.
Flynn showed the numbers from the statistics he researched and Singapore really is number one in the world for healthcare. If we followed suit, the benefits would be tremendously awesome. We would have more money in the government budget for other things such as schools, roads, parks, etc. We would have lower healthcare costs. We would get better treatment. The list of incentives goes on.
I think the reason we haven’t offered this 100 percent yet is because people are scared of true change. I also think it’s easier for people to not be accountable and let someone else make the decisions for them. As a human being, we really should be taking our health more serious, and if a HSA allows us to start being responsible about our health, then we should go that route. We’ll be happier in the long run and we’ll have more opportunities for other things in our country because our country will be able to afford it.