Keeping healthcare costs affordable

03 Nov 2020 3 min read

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In the recent Parliament sitting, Members of Parliament called for healthcare costs such as MediShield Life premiums to be kept affordable, especially for seniors.

MP for Bukit Panjang SMC Liang Eng Hwa and MP for West Coast GRC Foo Mee Har asked for justification for the impending increase in MediShield Life premiums since its launch five years ago. Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon explained that an increasing number of people making claims and the growing annual amounts paid out by the scheme are the two main reasons for the increase in premiums.

On the support for those who face difficulties with their premiums, which MP for Yio Chu Kang SMC Yip Hon Weng and MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Ng Ling Ling brought up, Dr Koh said that the Government has several financial support schemes to ensure Singaporeans will not lose MediShield Life coverage or be denied access to care because they cannot afford their premiums. He assured, “No Singaporean will be denied appropriate healthcare due to an inability to pay.” 

To ensure premiums remain affordable, the Government provides premium subsidies of up to 50 per cent for lower and middle-income households.  Dr Koh said that the Government paid about 35 per cent of total premiums through various subsidies and support last year.

The Government would provide a COVID-19 subsidy for Singapore Citizens in the next two years that results in a net premium increase of no more than 10 per cent in the first year. 

On paying premiums based on the choice of coverage and illnesses covered, which Mr Yip suggested, Dr Koh said that MediShield Life apply equally to all policyholders; those who prefer to have better coverage and are willing to pay higher premiums can consider private Integrated Shield Plans (IP). 

MP for Jurong GRC Xie Yao Quan proposed enhancing MediShield Life coverage for surgical procedures for a member above 80 years old, beyond the present recommended deductibles for day surgeries. Dr Koh said that claim limits for surgical procedures were recently increased in January this year to keep pace with rising costs and provide better coverage for more complex procedures. Claim limits for daily ward and treatment charges will be further adjusted and will help to cover more of the inpatient or day surgery bill.

MP for West Coast GRC Rachel Ong and MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Christopher de Souza proposed more flexibility for seniors to use their MediSave for certain treatments at selected Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinics approved by the Ministry and dental procedures not involving surgeries respectively.

Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong, in his written reply, explained that each extension in the use of MediSave must be carefully balanced against the need to ensure that Singaporeans’ MediSave balances are not depleted prematurely. The Government has adopted other measures to enhance access to TCM. As for dental procedures, MediSave can be used to pay for dental day surgical treatments. This ensures that MediSave can be used on a targeted basis to offset the largest bills. The Government has also introduced a range of measures are to improve the affordability of non-surgical dental treatments.

Other suggestions:

  • Mr De Souza proposed introducing a higher annual deduction limit for Flexi-MediSave or a higher MediSave withdrawal limit for those above 70 years old for outpatient consultation and medication

Answer: Fewer than two in 10 of those eligible to use Flexi-MediSave reached the annual $200 limit in 2019. MOH will continue to review the MediSave withdrawal limits regularly to ensure that they remain relevant and adequate for patients of all ages.

  • MP for Bukit Batok SMC Murali Pillai proposed widening the range of dental services for Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) orange card holders to include tooth extractions and fillings whilst maintaining the current subsidy limit of $50 to $170.50 per procedure

Answer: Singaporeans can access affordable basic dental care at polyclinics. The Government will continue to review its subsidy framework regularly to ensure continued affordability and accessibility of dental care at the appropriate settings.

  • Mr De Souza proposed greater subsidies for dementia medication and other types of medication needed by a higher number of seniors and retirees.

Answer: Government seeks to ensure affordability and accessibility of drugs that are assessed to be clinically and cost-effective for patients who need them. Such drugs would include medications for dementia, as well as other common conditions that our seniors could be suffering from.

Image: Ministry of Health Singapore’s Facebook