Fight private hospitals’ greed, insurance firms told amid probe into RM200 fee for masks

The ceiling price for three-ply masks is RM1.50 apiece.

PETALING JAYA: A consumer group has urged medical insurance providers to protect their clients against being overcharged by private hospitals.

Commenting on a report that a private hospital is under investigation over an allegedly hefty bill for three-ply masks, Malaysia Consumer Movement (MCM) vice-president Beninder Johl said insurance firms had a critical role to play in fighting the profiteering tendencies of private hospitals.

“Medical insurance providers must scrutinise the bills submitted by private hospitals and question them if the charges are exorbitant,” he said.

He told FMT patients covered by insurance would not usually raise the issue since they were not the ones paying for the medical expenses.

“However, MCM has received many complaints of high charges by private medical centres, especially from self-paying patients.”

A private hospital in Kuala Lumpur is being investigated for allegedly charging a patient RM201.60 for 18 three-ply masks used by nurses who treated him.

According to Iskandar Halim Sulaiman, the director of enforcement in the domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry, the investigation follows a complaint by the patient.

“The price is high, equivalent to RM11.20 each,” Iskandar said in a media statement.

Masks for protection against virus infection are a controlled item and the government has set the ceiling price for the three-ply variety at RM1.50 apiece.

It was as if the hospital was mocking the authorities, Johl said.

He urged insurance companies to strike out the hospital from their list of panel hospitals if it is found to have engaged in an unethical practice and suggested a ruling under which all charges must be communicated to patients before admission.

“This will send a clear message to private hospitals that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated,” he said.

He also said medical charges must be set by the amounts insurance firms are willing to pay instead of being left for hospitals to decide. “Don’t simply increase premiums to accommodate the unfair rise in medical costs.”

He called for government monitoring of private hospitals to protect patients from being cheated.

“It is best for the health ministry to set up a tribunal to hear consumer grievances on medical issues,” he added.

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