I REFER to the letter “Confused by GST in private healthcare’” (The Star, Dec 3) by Dr Sng Kim Hock.
Perhaps what is confusing is the ruling by the Customs Department that medical equipment, some hospital services and some drugs are not exempt from the Good and Services Tax (GST).
Based on the update by the Customs Department on Nov 19, regarding GST for healthcare services, the following items are not exempt from GST: food catering, canteen, security, parking, hygienic cleaning and laundry services, clinic rental, crutches, wheelchair, artificial limb, hearing aids. Rental of oxygen tanks will also be subject to GST.
In addition, cleaning and laundry, laboratory and imaging services, including outsourced healthcare professional services will be subjected to GST at the standard rate. Many clinics and hospitals outsource their laboratory and imaging services by sending patients’ blood and other tests to independent laboratories.
Not all medicines are GST exempt. New equipment purchased will be subject to GST.
When a patient registers at the counter, the registration fee is also subject to GST.
Private hospitals will not be able to absorb all the extra costs and will have to pass these costs to the patient, even if the bill does not show the 6% GST since private healthcare is supposed to be “GST-exempt”.
It is thus obvious that the sick patient will have to pay more for private hospital care with the implementation of GST.
For example, the disabled or someone with a broken leg will have to pay more for crutches, an artificial limb or a wheelchair. The person who has a chronic lung problem who need oxygen supply at home will have to pay more.
I appeal to the Cabinet to exempt all drugs, medical supplies and equipment purchased by the hospital for patient use. Similarly, all services in private hospitals should be exempt from GST so as not to burden the sick.
The consultation and procedure fees for services provided by private medical and dental specialists should also be exempt from GST as mentioned by Dr Sng.
Private healthcare is no longer a luxury for the rich only; many from the middle and lower socio-economic classes are also using private healthcare due to the long queues in government hospitals.
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