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WP's He Ting Ru didn't provide full facts on elderly patient needing help with medical bills: Koh Poh Koon

SINGAPORE Koh Poh Koon, former Senior Minister of State for Health, said that Workers’ Party Member of Parliament (MP) He Ting Ru's portrayal of Singapore as a society that forces seniors to cut down on essential medication dosages because they cannot afford them is untrue.
Dr Koh Poh Koon (pictured), Senior Minister of State Sustainability and the Environment and Manpower, took issue with an anecdote raised in February 2022 by Workers' Party Member of Parliament He Ting Ru.
Dr Koh Poh Koon (pictured), Senior Minister of State Sustainability and the Environment and Manpower, took issue with an anecdote raised in February 2022 by Workers' Party Member of Parliament He Ting Ru.
  • An anecdote raised by Workers’ Party MP He Ting Ru in Parliament in February did not take in the full facts of the case
  • Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, said this, adding that Ms He painted Singapore society as one that does not look after its seniors 
  • He said the MP did not give ample time for agencies to respond to her appeal on the patient's behalf before telling Parliament about the case
  • Ms He replied that the point she wanted to make was that residents feel the need to jump through many hoops for aid and feel humiliated in the process
  • She added that she was not casting any aspersions on any doctors or on the system

SINGAPORE — An anecdote raised by Workers’ Party Member of Parliament (MP) He Ting Ru in Parliament back in February did not take in the full facts of the case, and led to a mischaracterisation of Singapore society as one that does not look after its seniors, Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, said in Parliament on Monday (July 4).

In a Feb 28 speech, Ms He had claimed that seniors asked doctors for the medication dosages to be cut down because they cannot afford the full dosages.

"What does this say about us as a society?" she had said then.

As Ms He was absent from some debates thereafter, Dr Koh, who was the Senior Minister of State for Health at the time, asked for a clarification from the MP in April.

She gave details of a man having problems paying for his medication and who asked to cut back on his medication because he believed that he could not afford them. She added that she had made an appeal to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board on his behalf. 

Savings that residents have in their CPF accounts can be used to pay certain medical bills. 

In his response on Monday, after reviewing the man's case, Dr Koh said that the resident, whom he referred to as Mr H for confidentiality reasons, had declined his doctor’s recommendation to increase the medical dosage due to financial concerns.

"I want to confirm with Ms He that at no time was there a suggestion to cut the dosage of his medication, and his medication dosage has not been reduced."

Dr Koh also said that Mr H was referred to a medical social worker by a doctor to discuss his eligibility for financial assistance, but he did not follow up with the social worker. 

“Had the resident gone to see the medical social worker in September 2021, as originally arranged, it would have been determined that he is eligible for MAF (Medication Assistance Fund) assistance and he would have received the 62.5 per cent subsidies much earlier,” he added. 

Following Ms He's appeal on Feb 24, CPF Board responded to Mr H on March 16 before her clarification in April 4, Dr Koh said.

Ms He should have known by then that CPF Board had accorded flexibility to her resident, he added. 

Sengkang Polyclinic then reached out to Mr H to arrange for him to see a medical social worker on April 14, and he was awarded medical subsidies of 62.5 per cent for three of his non-standard drugs. 

"Should his doctor assess that he requires other MAF drugs to manage his condition, he will automatically receive 62.5 per cent subsidies for these drugs as well," Dr Koh said. 

Mr H could have received these subsidies earlier if he had seen medical social workers in September last year, as initially arranged by his doctor, Dr Koh added. 

The part that is of concern to me is that Ms He cited a resident’s case in support of a statement characterising our society as one that does not look after seniors, even before the facts of the case are determined and established...
Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Manpower

He added that Ms He had given CPF Board only two working days after lodging the appeal, before she gave her Feb 28 speech.

“The part that is of concern to me is that Ms He cited a resident’s case in support of a statement characterising our society as one that does not look after seniors, even before the facts of the case are determined and established and before agencies have had a chance to respond.” 

Ms He responded that the point she wanted to make was that residents feel the need to “jump through many hoops” and feel “humiliated going through the process”. 

She said: “I was not casting any aspersions on any doctors, on the system. I never said that the doctors told him to cut down his usage or his dosage.” 

However, Dr Koh said that implicit in her suggestion is that the Government “is not in touch with the ground or is uncaring”. 

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Koh Poh Koon He Ting Ru WP cpf medical bills Parliament seniors

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