By MOHAMMED IQBAL
DOHA: In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Council of Health (SCH) has stopped any further increase in prices of private clinics and hospitals until the proposed national health insurance scheme is fully implemented.
The decision is driven by an enormous increase recently in requests from private healthcare facilities seeking permission to hike fees, a senior SCH official said yesterday. The Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety Department at the SCH has issued a circular to all these facilities, saying the department will not accept any fee increase requests “until completion of application of the health insurance system”.
The circular was based on a decision (No 10) taken earlier this month by the Permanent Licensing Committee (PLC) at the SCH. “The only exception to this decision is adding new medical services after getting the required approval from the department,” said the circular.
The department which is responsible for licensing and monitoring private healthcare facilities has also asked them to strictly comply with the approved price list.
All private clinics and hospitals are required to submit their detailed price list to the department for approval. They cannot impose any hike in the approved prices if not sanctioned by the SCH.
Dr Jamal Rashid Al Khanji, Director of the Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety Department, told The Peninsula that the PLC had acted tough to stop any unjustified increase in the prices. “We have been flooded with requests from private clinics and hospitals to raise fees and most of these demands are unjustified.
“All facilities are seeking major increases without any valid reasons. The PLC felt the need to intervene to protect the interests of customers. “The SCH is not authorised to fix prices, but can freeze them to prevent a further hike, if there is a need,” said Al Khanji. “Through this move, the PLC wants to send a strong message to those facilities that are trying to hike their fees without any justification,” he added.
He said those facilities that are adding new services may be given permission to revise their fee structure, after a through scrutiny. “This is an exception to the rule, but we will also check if anyone is trying to misuse this by manipulating their prices and services.” He said the decision will also apply to new facilities.
“Before granting approval, we will scrutinise their prices to ensure they conform with the prices existing in the market.” The first phase of the national health insurance scheme is to be implemented very soon, but it would take two to three years to fully implement the system.
Asked no facility will be allowed to raise their fees during this whole period, Al Khanji said: “The insurance scheme will standardise the healthcare services and fees in the country and the decision could be reviewed once we have a clear idea about the market. Then we will be able to accurately assess who is charging more and who is charging less.” He said all facilities have also been asked to prominently display their prices for information of the customers.
“Big facilities like hospitals may have practical problems in displaying the full price list with their hundreds of services. We have asked them to keep a comprehensive file for reference by the customers. The customer has the right to know the fee for each service, before availing of it. If they have any problem in accessing the information, they should immediately launch a complaint with our department,” he said.