Seen and heard this week


Seen and heard this week is a weekly column highlighting thought leadership from the NUS community


Professor of HealthServices and Systems Research at Duke-NUS Medical School Eric Finkelstein discussed the effectiveness of fee benchmarks for private sector healthcare services in curbing healthcare inflation in a TODAY commentary published on 18 December. Prof Finkelstein, who is also Director of the Lien Centre for Palliative Care at the School, shared that fee schedules alone are unlikely to change the behaviour of most patients, as most cost conscious patients remain within the public sector, where fees are already available. While the fee benchmarks introduced by Singapore’s Ministry of Health may have only a modest effect on containing prices in the short term, it will likely reduce fee variation as clinicians may be forced to lower their prices if they want third party reimbursement or choose to raise their fees if they fall outside the lower end. However, Prof Finkelstein foresees that upward pressure on prices will continue due to increasingly generous insurance coverage, an aging population and rising rates of chronic disease, and addressing these risk factors would be the most effective in containing rising medical costs.

In another commentary published in The Straits Times on 20 December, Adjunct Professor Saravanan Gopinathan at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Mr Edmund Lim, an academic director of an overseas education organisation wrote about how Singapore can better help students develop future-ready skills. Last year, Singapore’s education system came out top in Asia in the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index, which looks at how effective countries are in equipping youth aged 15 to 24 years with the skills needed in future labour markets. Despite this, the duo pointed out that Singapore still has room for improvement, for example by developing analytical thinking and collaboration skills through project-based learning; expanding the attractive pay and career prospects to include pre-school teachers and special education teachers; inculcating more openness, inclusion and integration of special-needs children in mainstream schools; and reducing the weightage of major high-stakes academic examinations.

On 23 December, Professor Tan Tai Yong, President of Yale-NUS College and Professor of Humanities, weighed in on the Bicentennial initiative to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Singapore’s founding by Stamford Raffles. In a commentary published in Channel NewsAsia, Prof Tan shared that in contrast to the country’s Golden Jubilee, the Bicentennial initiative has generated much local debate — some supportive of the idea to commemorate the beginning of Singapore’s modern history and others viewing it as an unnecessary and insensitive nod to colonialism. He said that the Bicentennial initiative therefore needs to be sensitively framed, with the approach neither celebratory nor didactic. Instead, it should generate reflection of how Singapore came to be, with a “warts and all” approach that would acknowledge the blemishes, disruptions, twists and turns of a complex past.

Read more about the NUS community in the news.