The Ministry of Health will sign an interministerial circular with the ministries of Finance, and Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs to hike prices of 220 health services, instead of 355 as proposed in 2010, said Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien.
For illustration purposes only. (Photo: Tuoi Tre)Around 70 percent of the services will have their fees raised five times over the current rates, the maximum increase allowed under the new proposal, Tien said.
She said the price hike proposal was based on inflation and the rise in basic wages since 1995, the year the current hospital fees were stipulated.
Basic wages are currently 6.9 times higher than in 1995, and per capita income has also more than doubled to US$1,000 per year, she said.
“The current fee of only VND10,000-VND18,000 (less than US$1) for a sickbed is unacceptable,” the Minister said.
Over the last eight years, the Ministry of Health has repeatedly called on the government to hike hospital fees, but their request has always been turned down on the grounds of poor-quality services, low-grade infrastructure and inadequate patient consultation and in-patient care.
Tien said the proposal this time was backed by the Vietnam Social Insurance -- the agency responsible for covering the treatment expenses for around 60 percent of patients.
The minister said the treatment quality of health services would be improved once prices have been increased.
For instance, after hospital fees have been hiked, a patient will have to pay only 50 percent of the fees for a hospital bed if they are to share it with another patient, and only 30 percent if three patients share one sickbed, Tien said, adding there was previously no differentiation over this bed-sharing matter.
However, Pham Luong Son, head of the health insurance department under the Vietnam Social Insurance, said whether health service prices are high or not has nothing to do with easing the bed-sharing issue, which is caused by the hospital’s overloading.
Moreover, the doctors’ attitudes to and care of patients are a matter of medical ethics, which is not likely to be improved with the higher hospital fees.
“With supply currently failing to meet demands, health service quality cannot simply be improved by hiking prices,” Son concluded.
Hospital fees remain non-transparent
According to the Ministry of Health’s proposal, health insurance agencies will cover VND3,000 for each of patient’s medical check. However, patients at the Hanoi-based Bach Mai hospital said the figure is way lower than the actual rate of VND30,000 for a medical examination at this hospital.
Also at Bach Mai hospital, patients are charged at least VND50,000 for the abdominal ultrasound service, while the current price stipulated by the Ministry of Health is only VND20,000.
Do Thi Hai, a patient from Tu Liem District, said the insurance company only paid 30 percent of the total expenses for her treatment at Bach Mai hospital, while she had to take up the full medical examination fees.
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