Means testing needs an overhaul and here are 10 reasons why

I, Doctor

There are interesting debates about healthcare by politicians in Parliament recently. The good news is, psychiatric conditions will be covered by MediShield Life. And whilst they debate, I’d like to make a suggestion – that we take a serious look at Means Testing.

Instead of over-protecting government coffers, administrators need to find the tweak that provide citizens reprieve in a time of suffering and difficulty.


– Who doesn’t have parents, siblings or relatives?
In a means test, you are checked to see if you have a network of family to depend on. Yes, there are some without family… but does it mean those with family can necessarily depend on them? Asians are known to be chronically self-reliant. We would rather die than ask for an ounce of help. If you help out at any MPS, you will hear the same narrative over and over: “I don’t want to trouble my relatives”

– It doesn’t take into consideration debts
Even if you earn a fair sum of money, Means Testing isn’t forgiving with your debts. Some debts are long term and corrode your income.

– It has no clear written rules of exception
The officer doing your means test will tell you things are approved on a “case-by-case” basis. How does one evaluate? As an officer, you hear of these cases day in, day out… if you’re numb to these stories, how do you gauge? What if someone is lying? How do you tell?

– You are forcing people to identify themselves as “poor”
…and subject them to demeaning and difficult paperwork. Even sealing in the affirmation that they are poor and useless.

– It is hard on the sandwiched class
The poor get clear cut assistance. But what about the sandwiched?
Those who suffer from a prolonged illness, even though they may be enjoying a certain income level, will have their savings wiped out and little monthly income to support their medical needs.

– It encourages the wipeout of savings in two parties before help is rendered
So you’re asking a son/parent/relative to support you. But doesn’t that person have their own needs and emergencies too? If he/she can’t support themselves by then, wouldn’t that be artificially creating another problem?

– What is “affordable”?
MOH sees our healthcare spending in terms of a percentage of GDP. When you do this, then yes, Singapore has healthy healthcare expenditure as compared to other countries. The average salary of Singaporeans is about $3600. How much can this person afford in terms of medical consumables, check-ups, palliative care, nursing homes, emergency services – all of which are not deductible from Medisave?

– It is cold, cold numbers
It is easy to say “focus the help on those who need them most”. Does this mean those with $1000 should be helped, but those with $1001 will not be helped?

– We all pay taxes, why are we denied assistance?
Means testing is a form of discrimination. But when it comes to suffering, and the alleviation of suffering, assistance should be fair and universal.

– It may encourage illegal behaviour
If my parents are only going to get assistance if I was not around. Then the system is encouraging me to abandon them, just so they can get the support.

Means testing requires a lot of tweaking. It needs to start with the view that Singaporeans are responsible, careful with spending and trusted.






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