Doctors in private hospitals were yesterday accused by insurers of pushing up the cost of treatment by admitting patients for longer than necessary. Paul Law Siu-hung, chairman of the International Professional Insurance Consulting Association, warned the industry was under pressure to raise premiums unless it could attract more buyers to offset those filing claims. The remarks came after the Hong Kong Federation of Insurers yesterday released the latest figures for private medical expenses covered by group medical insurance. The sum billed to 14 major medical underwriters between July 2000 and June 2001 was $1.77 billion - a 9.3 per cent increase from $1.62 billion the year before. The reimbursement rate is about 75 per cent of the claims. Analysis of the figures showed that claimants treated in private wards stayed in hospital for an average of 4.2 days in 2000/01, compared to 3.5 days the previous year. Those treated in semi-private wards and general wards in public hospitals stayed for 3.8 days and 3.7 days respectively in 2000/01, compared to 3.4 days and 3.5 days previous year. The total number of medical claims also increased by 8 per cent from 3.7 million cases in 1999/00 to four million in 2000/01. 'We are aware some claimants have surgery which is not urgent or necessary. Some doctors are also lenient by allowing their patients to stay in hospital for an extra one or two days to rest,' Mr Law said. 'We understand from the doctors' point of view, they have to serve their patients' best interests. However, it increases our business costs if they stay in hospital unnecessarily.' Manlo Cheung, chairwoman of the General Insurance Council, said the industry was aware of the rise in the number of medical claims amid the economic downturn. Ms Cheung said many people chose to undergo non-urgent surgery which was covered by their companies' health insurance, fearing they might be laid off later and be unable to pay for the operation themselves. Yesterday legislator Lo Wing-lok, representing the medical constituency, criticised insurance companies for complaining about the length of hospital admissions. He said if patients were allowed more time to recover it would reduce the risk of further complications. 'I also appeal to the insurance companies to trust the professional judgment of doctors, who would not keep their patients in hospital unnecessarily,' Dr Lo said.