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Drug subsidies extended for long-term care patients

SINGAPORE — Drug subsidies have been progressively extended to intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) patients since January, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed during the Ministry of Health (MOH) Committee of Supply debate yesterday, as part of measures to enhance healthcare affordability.

SINGAPORE — Drug subsidies have been progressively extended to intermediate and long-term care (ILTC) patients since January, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed during the Ministry of Health (MOH) Committee of Supply debate yesterday, as part of measures to enhance healthcare affordability.

Previously, ILTC patients could buy drugs only at subsidised rates at a polyclinic or restructured hospital. Now, they can acquire these drugs — at the same price — straight from theirILTC provider, be it a community hospital or home palliative care service.

In response to queries about the extension of ILTC drug subsidies, the MOH said the extension was being implemented gradually, as it depends on when the service provider is able to work out the procurement arrangements with the public sector pharmacy partners. “Such a phased roll-out allows the MOH to bring the benefits to patients as soon as practicable, the moment their provider is ready, without having to wait for every provider to be ready before rolling out the scheme,” the ministry said.

As of end-February, all home medical care and home palliative care providers have come on board, as well as 49 of 54 nursing homes. The MOH hopes to have all eligible ILTC service providers on board the scheme — which is expected to cost the Government around S$5 million this year — by the end of this year. These service providers will serve about 40,000 subsidised ILTC patients a year. More than half of these patients are expected to tap on the scheme.

Other measures announced yesterday include extending transport subsidies for visiting government-funded eldercare and dialysis centres to more elderly, under tweaks to the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund. From next month, all seniors requiring some form of mobility assistance will qualify, subject to income eligibility. Currently, only wheelchair-bound seniors are entitled to these subsidies. The level of funding will now depend on mobility needs.

Senior Minister of State (Health) Amy Khor added that more funding would be given to eldercare providers to arrange for specialised transport for less mobile seniors. Since July 2011, about 2,000 seniors have received transport subsidies under the fund. Another 1,000 seniors are expected to benefit from the latest enhancement, and the extension will cost the Health Ministry an additional S$14 million. VALERIE KOH

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