Subsidise MediShield premiums for needy, says NCMP

Published: 4:02 AM, November 13, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, November 14, 2013

SINGAPORE — Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Gerald Giam yesterday suggested ways for the Government to ease healthcare costs for Singaporeans, including MediShield premium subsidies for the vulnerable.

This will help groups such as seniors with little savings and no income, as well as the disabled, to cope with premiums for the insurance scheme, which could go up with increased coverage, he said.

Mr Giam’s suggestions in Parliament came after it was announced last Saturday that a committee would review key issues in enhancing the MediShield framework to cover all Singaporeans for life.

The MediShield premium subsidy programme proposed by Mr Giam will extend an “appropriate level” of subsidy to vulnerable groups. Currently, many of those paying the highest premiums are those who can least afford it — policyholders over age 60 contribute 36 per cent of total MediShield premiums, although they make up just over 12 per cent of policyholders, he argued.

Mr Giam also suggested that the Health Ministry explore an annual cap on out-of-pocket co-payments by patients, with medical expenses over the cap borne by the Government. This will allay anxiety over uncertain medical expenses, he said.

In response, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the Government will shoulder a greater proportion of healthcare costs, from the current 33 per cent to 40 per cent or more. It is reviewing the subsidy structure at Specialist Outpatient Clinics and looking to help the lower-income and pioneer generation of older Singaporeans to pay for MediShield Life premiums, so they need not worry about healthcare in their old age.

While there is room to calibrate co-payments to provide more help, Mr Gan said co-payments are an important strategy to maintain and moderate costs — encouraging patients and healthcare providers to focus on more cost-effective treatment options.

Singapore’s healthcare financing system is “fundamentally sound, but we need to future-proof it, so it remains effective and relevant for many years to come”, he said. NEO CHAI CHIN