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New Merdeka Generation Package to help S'poreans born in 1950s with healthcare needs

SINGAPORE — Just as Singaporeans born in 1949 or earlier received the Pioneer Generation Package to cope with healthcare and other expenses, baby boomers born in the 1950s will receive help from the Government.

New Merdeka Generation Package to help S'poreans born in 1950s with healthcare needs

The Merdeka Generation Package will cover areas such as outpatient subsidies, Medisave account top-ups, MediShield Life premium subsidies and payouts for long-term care,

SINGAPORE — Just as Singaporeans born in 1949 or earlier received the Pioneer Generation Package to cope with healthcare and other expenses, baby boomers born in the 1950s will receive help from the Government.

Called the Merdeka Generation Package, it will cover areas such as outpatient subsidies, Medisave account top-ups, MediShield Life premium subsidies and payouts for long-term care, announced Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 19).

Details will be announced next year.

Dubbing some 500,000 Singaporeans born in the 1950s the Merdeka Generation – "merdeka" is freedom in Malay – Mr Lee said they, too, experienced the "indelible, formative" events before and after Singapore gained internal self-government from the British in 1959.

There was the struggle for independence from the British, the People's Action Party forming the Government for the first time, the split with the communists, merger and separation from Malaysia and independence in 1965.

The benefits of their package "will not be as large as for the Pioneer Generation, who had much less advantage in life. But (it) will go some way to relieve their healthcare worries, and more importantly, show our appreciation for the Merdeka Generation's contributions," said Mr Lee.

Unlike the pioneer generation that "spent most of their working lives in Third World Singapore, only to retire in First World Singapore", those born in the 1950s benefitted from an extra decade of economic growth, earned more over their lifetimes and are generally better educated than the previous generation.

The S$9 billion Pioneer Generation Package, introduced in 2014, benefits about 450,000 senior citizens. The Government set aside S$8 billion for it, with the remainder to come from accumulated interest over time.

So far, the Government has spent more than S$1.3 billion of the S$8 billion set aside, said Mr Lee.

The Government provided annual Medisave top-ups of S$100 to S$200 to those born between 1950 and 1959 when the Pioneer Generation Package was introduced, but Mr Lee acknowledged the top-ups are not "quite the same thing" as the package.

The Merdeka Generation "lived through the tumultuous years of the 1950s and early 1960s", he said.

Mr Lee, who said that he was "proud" to be among the Merdeka Generation, teared up during a part of his speech. "Having lived through the battles and upheavals of the Merdeka struggle, and seen how their parents scraped and slogged for them, when the Merdeka generation grew up, they understood instinctively what was at stake."

He said the men in the Merdeka Generation were among the earliest batches who served National Service and were the first of the Singapore Armed Forces. "They accepted hardships, made sacrifices, answered the call of duty and worked with their leaders to build a better tomorrow. Many, especially the women, did not complete their education and entered the workforce early to support their family and younger siblings," he added.

Mr Lee said that most of the Merdeka Generation today are in their 60s, and have either left the workforce or will soon be retiring.

"Many have similar healthcare concerns as the pioneers, they are looking at their Central Provident Fund savings and Medisave accounts, worried about having enough for their medical needs as they grow older," said Mr Lee, who added that a "significant sum" will be set aside for their package.

"I think we owe something to them."

Some attendees of the rally welcomed the Merdeka Generation package. Mr Abdul Aziz, 63, a Silver Generation Office programme coordinator with Pasir Ris-Punggol Satellite Office, has encountered many who “missed out” on the Pioneer Generation Package.

He said lifetime Medisave top-ups and dental subsidies would be useful.

“Old people, their gums not so good now. It’s not that we don’t want to go to dentist, but it costs almost S$100 every visit,” he said.

Mdm Patricia Tee, 63, a Silver Generation Ambassador with Nee Soon group representation constituency, looks forward to benefiting from the package and hopes treatment for chronic conditions will be covered.

“As I’m not working I don’t (have Medisave contributions), so I hope we can get a bit more top-up of Medisave,” said the housewife, who taps her electrician husband’s account. “At the moment I’m healthy but you can’t predict the future.”

The Government has also improved financial support for long-term care, such as by revamping the ElderShield severe disability insurance scheme and introducing CareShield Life in 2020, which will cover all Singaporeans born in 1980 and later. Its payouts for those who cannot perform three or more activities of daily living will start from S$600 a month for life, higher than ElderShield and without a maximum payout duration.

Mr Lee encouraged those born before 1980 to also opt in for CareShield Life, saying they would receive a generous subsidy to help pay for the scheme's premiums.

As many as one in two Singaporeans will, at some point in life, no longer be able to perform three activities of daily living, which include feeding and dressing, he said. "Singaporeans are living longer, but unfortunately our additional years are not always healthy years… and that is why we all need CareShield Life."

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