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Families say higher ElderShield payouts of enhanced scheme will bring some relief

SINGAPORE — Ms Carin Soh knows more about getting insured than the average Singaporean. Even then, the 42-year-old insurance agent found herself unable to fully support her 78-year-old father after he suffered a heart attack three years ago and needed more care.

Ms Carin Soh (right), is the sole breadwinner of her family. Her father, Mr Soh Gin Hock, who used to work as a bus scheduler, already had some mobility problems after he suffered a mild stroke some two decades ago.

Ms Carin Soh (right), is the sole breadwinner of her family. Her father, Mr Soh Gin Hock, who used to work as a bus scheduler, already had some mobility problems after he suffered a mild stroke some two decades ago.

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SINGAPORE — Ms Carin Soh knows more about getting insured than the average Singaporean. Even then, the 42-year-old insurance agent found herself unable to fully support her 78-year-old father after he suffered a heart attack three years ago and needed more care.

So when she heard about the latest changes to the ElderShield insurance scheme under the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board, she was a bit encouraged by it.

On Sunday (May 28), it was announced that from 2020, ElderShield will be renamed CareShield Life with some enhanced features. The insurance scheme will provide severely disabled Singaporeans with higher and lifetime payouts — S$600 a month, up from the present S$300 or S$400.

The Government is encouraging existing ElderShield policyholders to join CareShield Life through subsidies and instalment plans, with more details to come later in the year.

The higher payouts would greatly benefit them, Ms Soh said. Her father is on his second year claiming from ElderShield and receives S$300 a month, which goes to settling part of the fees at the nursing home where he is a resident.

Even after government subsidies and ElderShield payouts, Ms Soh still has to pay about S$600 every month for the rest of the nursing home's fees. His medication costs another S$30 to S$50 a month on average.

The ElderShield payouts last five or six years, depending on when policyholders joined the scheme. Switching to CareShield Life will mean that he can get payouts as long as he lives.

Money has been tight for Ms Soh, a divorcee who is the sole breadwinner of the family. She lives in a three-room government-built flat in Bedok with her 70-year-old mother, who has high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and her 17-year-old daughter, a polytechnic student.

Ms Soh's monthly salary of S$3,000 has to support all their household expenses. She could not afford to hire anyone to take care of her father, nor could she afford to renovate their home to make it more user-friendly for him.

So her father, who needs someone to help him shower and has trouble moving about on his own, is now living in Thye Hua Kwan Nursing Home in Hougang.

Mr Soh Gin Hock, who used to work as a bus scheduler, already had some mobility problems after he suffered a mild stroke some two decades ago. He also has high cholesterol and blood pressure.

It still came as "a shock" to the family when he had a cardiac arrest. During his stay in hospital for almost two months, Ms Soh found out that he was still covered by the ElderShield scheme.

The family had assumed that he was no longer eligible for payouts because he had stopped paying premiums after turning 65.

While he subscribed to ElderShield before he turned 65, Ms Soh could not top it up with supplementary plans, since they were not available when the scheme was launched in 2002. By the time they were available, he was past 65 years old and had stopped paying premiums.

Ms Soh also said that by the time she got into the insurance industry about a decade ago and knew more about coverage, her father was too old to qualify for private entry-level severe disability plans, which typically cut off at age 65.

He had other insurance plans, but had cancelled those because he did not see a need for them.

Ms Soh will wait for more information to be announced about CareShield Life, but is already eager to get her father on the new scheme.

"It will make a difference, especially with lifetime payouts… I won't have to worry about payouts running out after five years."

For communications professional Derrick Koh, 48, the ElderShield scheme came in handy when his 70-year-old mother suffered her second stroke in December last year.

Lifetime payments under CareShield will go a long way towards reassuring his family, given that "a stroke is something that doesn't really go away", he said.

His mother, Madam Ong Bee Har, had recovered from her first stroke in 2009, save for some weakness in her hand, but ended up being hospitalised for about six months after the second one.

She is now unable to move around much on her own. As she lives alone, Mr Koh had to get a domestic helper to take care of her. He also got her mobility aids, such as a push-chair and a pair of ramps to get her up the stairs into her flat.

With ElderShield, Mdm Ong received S$300 a month in payouts, along with other subsidies such as Pioneer Generation grants.

Mr Koh told TODAY that ElderShield helps to ease some of the financial pressures. His mother used to have a tenant living with her, which provided her with about S$550 a month in allowance, but she has not had one due to her condition.

"Inflation is creeping up always and Singapore is an expensive place to live," he said. "When you see S$300 a month (in payouts), it doesn't seem like a lot, but if you don't have enough income, it helps."

He added that he is "looking forward" to seeing what will be announced next, if he can get her a more "permanent" insurance plan.

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