Thursday, March 30, 2006

Unefficiency of KK Hospital's Billing System

My son Irza was admitted to KK Hospital on 16 February 2006. During admission procedure at the Children's Emergency, the staff gave me an exaggerated estimation of the total hospital bill. Even for the C class ward, this is the estimated bill size:

ICU and treatment charges: $1,377.60
Ward and treatment charges: $456.40
Estimated investigations, tests and medication/drug charges: $17,500.00

Total: $19,334.00

Medisave claimable: $10,500.00

Estimated amount to be paid: $8,834.00

Initial payment to be paid: $9,000.00

Therefore, the staff asked me to make the initial payment of $9,000! That is on top of the $65 I have paid for the A&E (emergency) attendance fee. I was shocked that I would need to make such hefty initial payment only to admit my son to hospital. I was wondering, how about those who cannot afford to make such initial payment? Does it mean that those people will not be able to admit their children to the hospital?

In a state of anxiety due to my son's health condition, I didn't have any other choices except to pay the hefty initial payment. Luckily I have a credit card which has such the high limit.

My son was discharged from the hospital on 20 February 2006. They told me that I would not be able to get the details of the final bill size on the spot. The details will be sent via post in two weeks time. Any refund, if there's any, will be sent via cheque via post as well.

Two weeks has passed since the day of discharge, and I haven't received the final bill yet. And yet, I needed it urgently for me to claim the medical bills from my insurance company. So, on Tuesday, 7 March 2006, I rang the hospital's billing department again to ask for the status, and they said that they were still finalising the details and I shall received the final bill in one to two days time.

Two days has passed, and I haven't received the details. So on Thursday, 9 March 2006, I called them again. They said that the final bill is on the way, nevertheless they will send another copy in case I don't receive it.

I finally got the tax invoice from KK Hospital on Friday, 10 March 2006. Do you know how much is the total bill size? Only $810.97 (including the $65 A&E attendance fee), and all were covered by my Medisave account. Therefore, I needed to pay nothing, and they would refund me $9,065.00 for the excess payment. Sound ridiculous, eh? So I made the initial payment of $9,000.00 for nothing!

I was thinking that the cheque will be sent together with the tax invoice. I was wrong! The invoice mentioned that the cheque for any refund due will be sent in due course. OK, never mind, meaning I would not be able to get my money back in time before I went to Jakarta for a one-week holiday. On Friday itself, I immediately made a copy of the tax invoice and submitted it to my company's HR department for them to process the insurance claim. I left for Jakarta on 11 March 2006, hoping that I shall get the cheque once I come back.

Sunday, 19 March 2006, I came back to Singapore and was surprised to find out that I haven't received the cheque in my mailbox. The next day, I rang KK Hopsital again and they informed me that they were still processing the cheque! It was almost a month since my son was discharged from the hospital. Why they needed such a bloody long time only to refund other people's money??

Time went by, and after numerous desperate calls to the hospital for the whole week, I finally got the cheque on Saturday, 25 March 2006. Does the story end here? No! Again, I was shocked to find out that the beneficiary name is wrong! They have mispelled my name on the cheque, making me impossible to clear the cheque! Oh My God! Amazing!

I made another call to the hospital, and since it was Saturday evening, I was told that the business office has been closed for the day. Well I didn't care, I was asked to be escalated to higher authority who can ensure that I can get back my money by that day. The staff then transferred me to the Children's Emergency, because it's the only department which is opened during that time. Again, I was confused, how can the emergency department assist me on billing/refund issues?

Never mind, I then spoke to the staff from the children's emergency, and explained again the situation. Basically, no matter what, I wanted to have my money back by that day. She said that she would transfer me to a 24-hour on-call business officer, but after the phone was transferred, it got cut off. I tried desperately to call back the children's emergency hotline, but nobody picked up even though I tried several times. They might be busy attending sick children over there, and I didn't want to bug them with some billing issues. So I decided to gave up, and planned to call the business office on Monday instead.

On Monday, 27 March 2006, I called the business office, and informed the staff about the wrong beneficiary name on the cheque. The staff advised me to come to their office for me to get the refund in cash! You can imagine, $9,065 in cash! Even the staff was surprised to hear that the refund amount was $9,065. I asked her whether I can get a cheque instead, but she said it's best for me to have it in cash instead.

OK, finally I can get my money back on Wednesday, 29 March 2006, when I went to the business office at the 4th floor of the Children's Tower, in cash. After which, I immediately went to the POSB Newton Branch nearby to bank it in. Total, it takes 1 month and 9 days for me to get my money back, since the day of discharge. I was wondering whether I can claim the interests for the money they keep for the more than one month period? Even in Singapore which has low interest fees, with 1% annual interest fee, I can get $7.50 from a $9,000 amount within a month, enough for me to buy 5 hamburgers from McDonalds.


PS. The Indonesian version of this post can be found here.


tata said...

hmmmm.... sounds like a typical hospital in a third world country.

IndraPr said...

Tata: yes, perhaps in Indonesia we might often encounter this kind of problem, but I am surprised to get this kind of experience from a public hospital in Singapore.

Guttercat said...

Well, there is a reason why it's called a PUBLIC hospital.

But since it's the only A&E catering exclusively to children as well, guess we'll just have to grin & bear it.

IndraPr said...

Guttercat, yeah.. no choice...

Anonymous said...

hey then next time you should go to a private hospital....u r not a local that's why they charge u a big amount first just in case of a worse senario. u son was lucky enough he did not need to go through a major op. that y its cheaper . thank god for that n stop complaining.or u rather go back to an indonesian hos.. i guess it's free there?

s_jenkins said...

Hey, maybe you'd want to vist so you could check out which credit card is perfect for the kind of insurance you'd be getting!

Adelaine S. said...

You're situation is still better than the others that I have read before. Fortunately, you managed to get your medical bill in more than 2 weeks. Some people receive their bills 2-3 months after discharged. What more, the hospital threatens them that if they will not pay their balance on their due date, the hospital will make their "necessary steps".

Anonymous said...

Jus shut up and stop complain,whats the matter with u?when its not business hour and u die want to get the money on that day immediately?damn funny,u gt the money to go for holiday,jus wait more awhile to get back ur money la,make pple hospital need to entertain ur"immediately temper" wtf