Hospital fees to be reasonably adjusted

According to the Ministry of Health, the recently-issued hospital fees only count three direct factors, including: the costs of drugs and supplies used for medical examination and hospital beds, technical services; electricity, water and waste treatment costs; maintenance costs, procurement of substitute assets and tools.

The remaining four elements that constitute the hospital fees are not included in the new fees, consisting: salaries and allowances; overhaul of assets; depreciation of buildings, major equipment; training costs, scientific research.

The Ministry of Health said the new rates are not high and not accurate enough. In the future, the four above factors will gradually be incorporated into the hospital fees.

Therefore, the hospital fees will tend to rise again to gradually make up for operating costs and improve the quality of health care services to the people.

To implement the above roadmap, Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said the most important thing is to ensure the successful implementation of the health insurance plan, increasing the coverage of health insurance to patients so they will not have to directly pay for hospital fees.

Tien said: "Each person spends around VND500,000 ($25) per year to buy a health insurance card. When they are hospitalized, health insurance will cover VND5 to VND7 million ($250-350) of hospital fees for them, and even up to a hundred million dong. Therefore, patients need to see clearly their interest when they buy health insurance. Currently, disadvantaged people are supported by the State to buy health insurance".

"Trap" of poverty

However, even if health insurance can cover everyone, the "poverty trap" still exists if the policies relating to the interests of the insured are not adjusted accordingly.

According to experts from the Hanoi Medical University and the World Health Organization (WHO) at a workshop in 2010, in Vietnam, the impact of health insurance for the protection of people from "catastrophe" health costs, the cause of poverty, is limited.

Specifically, many patients with health insurance still have to pay highly from their own pocket (in 2008, the percentage of households in Vietnam that had to pay medical expenses is up to six percent, equivalent to 1.2 million households). This rate is high compared to international level there is no signs of decline over time.

In addition, even if the hospital fees increase, patients with health insurance still have to pay for using the machinery bought by non-State capital.

Under the provisions of the health insurance law, patients with health insurance who use high-tech medical services with high costs are covered by health insurance at three levels (100%, 95%, 80%), but not to exceed 40 months of minimum salary for a time of using hi-tech services (not exceed VND42 million/time).

In fact, a lot of hi-tech services have the prices that are much higher than 40 month of minimum salary, so the patients still have to pay highly.

The Ministry of Health has submitted to the Government the draft plan on implementation of health insurance for all people.

The Ministry of Health also proposed that in addition to supporting 70 percent of the premium for poor households, the support should be 100 percent of the premium for the households that have just escaped from poverty and for extremely poor households.

The specific objectives of this project, from 2012 to 2020, are: To increase the percentage of the population covered by health insurance to 75 percent by 2015 and over 90 percent by 2020.

By Cam Quyen - VietNamNet Bridge - October 5, 2012