NTUC wants employers to adopt Portable Medical Benefits Scheme

June 25, 201510:29 am461 views
NTUC wants employers to adopt Portable Medical Benefits Scheme
NTUC wants employers to adopt Portable Medical Benefits Scheme

Less than 10 per cent of unionised companies in Singapore are on some form of the Portable Medical Benefits Scheme, despite more than 10 years of lobbying by the Labour Movement.

With MediShield Life covering all Singaporeans by year’s end, the labour movement wants employers to ride on the Scheme. Unlike a company’s group medical insurance, portable medical benefits will cover people even if they are out of work or in between jobs.

MediShield, introduced in 1990, is Singapore’s national insurance scheme. Besides this, most companies offer workers Group Medical Insurance. When an illness strikes, only one insurance kicks in. The Labour Movement wants to get rid of this duplication.

With MediShield Life kicking in at the end of the year and covering every Singaporean, including their pre-existing illnesses, the Labour Movement said it makes sense to move to a Portable Medical Benefits Scheme.

This is the suggestion – dispense with the Group Medical Insurance and use the money companies set aside for it, to co-pay a worker’s MediShield Life premiums, and cover the deductibles. This sounds straightforward enough, but it has been a challenge for the Labour Movement to convince companies to do so.


“A lot of them will look at the cost,” said NTUC’s Assistant Secretary-General Cham Hui Fong. “We have about 60 per cent of companies on Group Medical Insurance. That means they purchase group insurance. Because it is group, there is always a risk pooling. Just depending on the number.

“If you look at the relative cost, it is quite low compared to if we were to ask them to convert to MediShield because if I am the employee, I will expect everything to be covered, similar to what I was covered under my Group Medical Insurance.”

Ms Cham added: “For example, if the Group Medical Insurance covers my hospitalisation of up to S$15,000, the first S$15,000 is paid for under the Group Insurance plan whereas under my MediShield, assuming it is still a B2 plan, I have a deductible to contend with. I have a co-payment to take care of. So who to pay for this?

“The employee will assume that the first S$15,000 under MediShield Life has to be paid for by the company. So in addition to paying for the premium for MediShield, I will have to take care of this too, which is co-payment and the deductible. So if you were to look at things this way, everything has got to be exactly the same, then the cost will shoot up for the employers.”

Still, Ms Cham said the cost is actually contained in the long run: “We do not think that it will reduce their cost immediately. Immediately when you transit into this scheme, it is very likely to cost the companies more. But in the longer run, the cost is actually contained.

“And we also believe that because there is lesser duplication, today the employer is paying, employee is paying. So we are just spending the money unnecessarily, so we think that we should try to minimise this wastage since there is this duplication.

“Why don’t we use these extras that are being paid and instead of paying to insurance companies, pay to the workers. The differences in terms of the cost and deductibles, I think we can address them separately.”

One early adopter is Raffles Hotel. The company switched to Portable Medical Benefits in 2008, for all Singaporean and Permanent Resident staff. It subsidises a worker’s Integrated Shield Plan, which offers better coverage for serious illness and large hospital bills. It also gives out subsidies for a Rider Assist plan to take care of any out-of-pocket cash payment.

“We bought the Assist Rider to take care of the deductible which our colleagues would otherwise have to incur, before the Integrated Shield Plan kicks in. So by subsidising the Assist Rider Plan, our colleagues need not worry about the deductible amount,” said the hotel’s Director of Human Resources Jennifer Tan.

Ms Tan added that before switching to a Portable Medical Benefit Scheme, older colleagues above the age of 68 could not be covered under group insurance.


Cost was not an issue for the hotel. Said Ms Tan: “In terms of cost, we actually used the budget which we would have incurred for group insurance, to subsidise the premium of the Integrated Shield Plan and our colleagues definitely see this as a benefit. In fact, when we implemented the scheme, many colleagues came forward to express their gratitude and appreciation that as an employer we look after them, not just during employment, but beyond employment and beyond retirement.”

Forty-seven-year-old Roslee Sukar benefited from the medical plan, when he needed surgery to remove a cyst. He said he does not mind co-paying the premium, as long as he has peace of mind. Mr Roslee, an assistant chef concierge at Raffles Hotel Singapore, hotel said he paid less than S$100 for his Integrated Shield Plan last year, after his employer subsidies kicked in.

“It is very very minimal and it is worth it because it is not only for when you are with the organisation, it continues after you have left,” said Mr Roslee. “So long as you have paid your premium, you are still covered. That is one thing other companies cannot match.”

To get companies on board, the Labour Movement is calling for tax or cash incentives for companies that switch to the Portable Medical Benefit Scheme. For a start, it wants to work with 10 to 15 companies and start a fund, in which these companies can draw down from, to help offset the cost of paying for their workers’ insurance co-payment and deductibles.


news source: channelnewsasia.com

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