Health care spending or health scare pending?

Our earlier piece about Singapore healthcare talked about the robustness of the system based on the 3M model (MediSave, MediShield and MediFund); indeed it’s not a perfect system but when you compare Singapore’s healthcare with other similar systems, we’re actually doing alright.

The good news is we might soon be seeing changes for the better!

In the same vein as U.S. President Barack Obama’s Health Care Plan – or street word: ‘Obamacare’ – for Americans, Singaporeans can now enjoy healthcare enhancements and reforms with MediShield Life, as announced in PM Lee’s recent National Day Rally (NDR) speech.

 

The revamped MediShield scheme called MediShield Life will continue to be in effect all through Singaporean citizens’ lives beyond the age of 90. This is especially important as Singaporeans’ average life span increases with improving healthcare technology. Singaporeans with pre-existing medical conditions will also be covered under ‘Lee-care’.

Because Singaporeans are going to get more out of the revised scheme, PM Lee noted that premiums are going to be increased. He did not state how much more it would cost to subscribe to MediShield Life, but assured that it would stay ‘affordable’.

The upshot of this is that Singaporeans can have peace of mind that medical services are financially accessible should the need arise, without burning a hole in their pocket.

In short, this is what we’re going to see with the upcoming changes:

–          MediShield coverage to extend beyond 90 years of age.

–          MediShield to cover those with pre-existing illnesses.

–          Better insurance coverage, but still based on a co-payment system.

–          Higher premiums, but with more support from the government to help Singaporeans service the premiums.

–          No opt-out option (although this may not be a major issue as the current MediShield already covers some 92% of Singaporeans).

PM Lee also highlighted in his speech that the qualifying age (40 years old) for the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) will be removed. This will help lower-income Singaporeans have better access to quality healthcare.

That said, further changes to the CHAS would be helpful by way of raising the per capita monthly household income ceiling from $1,500 to $2,000 as the definition of low-wage workers has changed over time.

What do Singaporeans think?

Comments by Singaporean netizens have been mixed.

Said SSK: “It is a noble initiative that the Government have taken at last. Medical cost have always been the main worry for most of us. As for I have a son with Congenital Heart Defect (CHD). He went through his 2nd Open Heart Surgery just 2 months back in NUH. Medishield does not cover the procedure and I was told to lay $18,000 as deposit. I hope the new plan can assist by firstly, no deposit is required. The premiums must be affordable and the Government will certainly need to subsidize the premiums. I just hope the new plan is structured for citizens benefits rather than profit.”

Soo Boon Yee was more skeptical about the increased premiums: “The word “affordable” is very subjective. Affordable to you does not mean affordable to everyone especially those who live with daily constraints. Adding here and there becomes a burden to low wage earners. Every time the word “affordable” used by our leaders, the low wages earners becomes victims in their own cages. The announcement in the NDR by our PM did have a positive impact on many, but many are seeing the negative effects especially with little or nothing to spare financially. The leaders must do more to help this group, who had no other means to voice their worries.”

Crystal, a 25-year-old Account Executive, thinks the changes will be “the right step forward for Singapore” but added that “it’s too soon to tell” if the changes will indeed help Singaporeans in the long run. “We don’t know how much higher the premiums are going to be and how much more it would cover in terms of benefits. The devil is in the details, so let’s wait and see,” she added.

In any case, it’s reassuring to know we’re not headed towards an impending health scare like most other developed nations are.

 

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