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Coverage for MediShield, Medisave may be extended further: Health Minister

Medisave, MediShield may be used for outpatient treatments & home-based hospice care, says Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in a two-hour wide-ranging dialogue with over 100 participants.

Medisave, MediShield may be used for outpatient treatments & home-based hospice care, says Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in a two-hour wide-ranging dialogue with over 100 participants.

SINGAPORE: Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said his ministry is “seriously considering” the idea of expanding the coverage of the MediShield – a national health insurance scheme – to go beyond just hospitalisation treatments.

Speaking at a post-budget dialogue session on Sunday, he said the ministry may also free up the use of Medisave – a national medical savings scheme – to include home-based hospice care.

Over 100 participants engaged the Health Minister in the two-hour wide-ranging dialogue.

Some wanted to know what more is being done to ramp up capacity in the healthcare sector.

But affordability was a key concern, with calls to expand the coverage of current financing schemes such as Medisave and MediShield.

Mr Gan said his ministry is aware that there are some outpatient treatments which can be costly and where insurance coverage under the MediShield may be useful.

So he’s studying how the scheme can be expanded further.

The key is in striking a balance, so that premiums remain affordable.

Mr Gan said: “One area is say for example – chronic diseases. So whether we want to cover that, is something that we need to discuss, we need to explore and we need to also think through very carefully, because if we include too many items, the premiums will also go up for insurance. So we need to strike a balance between providing coverage as well as the cost of insurance.”

The ministry will also study ways to help Singaporeans pay for the insurance premiums.

As for the use of Medisave, Mr Gan said extending it to cover home-based hospice care is one possibility.

But he said authorities need to be mindful about the many competing demands.

“There was request for extension to screenings, extension to hospice care and so on. These are all reasonable desires but at the end we still need to prioritise them, because after all Medisave balances are still limited, there’s a finite pool and we want to make best use of the finite pool of savings that Singaporeans have,” Mr Gan said.

The need to attract more locals into the healthcare sector was another concern and there were suggestions for salaries to be raised. Mr Gan assured that salaries will be kept competitive and that another round of review is likely to take place this year or next year.

As for capacity, Mr Gan said the ministry is also working with private hospitals to tap on their capacity to cater to subsidised patients.

– CNA/ck – http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1262078/1/.html

Health Minister Gan on MediShield enhancements

Patients at a hospital in Singapore

SINGAPORE: Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has stressed the importance of insurance in a country’s healthcare financing.

He said the government wants to encourage lower-income families to be covered by its insurance scheme, MediShield.

Mr Gan said this in response to questions from reporters, on his ministry’s plan to provide wider coverage from the first quarter of next year.

He said it has to calibrate MediShield enhancements very carefully, including extending coverage for congenital and neo-natal conditions.

“We also are concerned that, whether by introducing this additional insurance, we will actually increase the cost of treatment. Because once it is covered by insurance, parents and doctors may pursue more expensive treatment and overall, this may raise the cost of healthcare for children in Singapore,” said Mr Gan.

“We need to calibrate it so that there is a balance between benefits covered by the insurance, as well as the cost of the insurance premium, to ensure that the benefits remain relevant and effective and at the same time, the premium remains affordable,” he added.

Mr Gan was speaking to the media at the end of his Ministerial walkabout to the Bukit Timah division of the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

With the enhancements, patients will be able to claim more – up to S$70,000 for their hospital bills annually, compared with the current S$50,000.

The lifetime limit will be increased from S$200,000 to S$300,000 to help policyholders who face exceptionally large bills, such as undergoing multiple surgeries after an accident.

The Health Ministry said MediShield deductibles will also be adjusted accordingly, as medical bills have become more expensive over the years.

With the extended coverage and payouts, MediShield premiums will have to be raised.

But the Health Ministry said for the vast majority of policyholders, the increase in premiums will be less than S$10 a month.

And with the additional government support given at this year’s Budget, Singaporeans aged 65 and below will have to fork out no more than S$5 per month in the next two years.

For the elderly, their premiums will be largely offset by the annual and one-time Medisave top-ups.

They will, in fact, see a decrease in premiums payable.

CNA/cc

Budget should do more for elderly and those with low incomes: AWARE

SINGAPORE – Ahead of the Budget to be delivered next Friday, the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) has unveiled its wish-list, with an emphasis on supporting the elderly and the low-income, and also better subsidies for infant care and childcare.

Noting that caregivers are mainly women, AWARE proposed that subsidies should be given for the long-term care of elderly family members and that all Singaporeans over 85 years old should be provided with free MediShield coverage for life.

Medisave accounts should be periodically topped up from budgetary surpluses, in proportion to the age of the recipient as well as household income, said AWARE in a statement yesterday.

It also suggested that a specified percentage of a husband’s Central Provident Fund monies be deposited into his stay-at-home wife’s Medisave account, or incentives be given for the husband to top up his stay-at-home wife’s Medisave account.

“Most caregivers in Singapore are women, who often experience adverse results for professional advancement and long-term financial security, due to lack of support. The Budget needs to reflect the state’s commitment to supporting women in both the workplace and at home,” the association said.

Other proposals include revising upwards the eligibility criteria for ComCare and Public Assistance to include household incomes of more than S$1,500 per month up to the 30th percentile, and restoring public spending to up to 25 per cent of the gross domestic product as the population ages.

AWARE also proposed that access to childcare subsidies, motherhood benefits and housing benefits should be widened to include all mothers, without discrimination against unwed or stay-at-home mothers.

Paid paternity leave of two weeks should be made mandatory, while one month of the current four-month maternity leave should be converted to parental leave to be taken by either spouse, it suggested.

Meanwhile, there should also be free or subsidised medical benefits for persons with disabilities, including financial support for the cost of rehabilitation, medicine, treatment and health insurance.

This is the second year AWARE is submitting feedback for the Budget. The full report can be found at http://www.aware.org.sg/2012/02/aware-calls-for-an-inclusive-2012-singapore-budget/.

Read More: TodayOnline

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