SINGAPORE — The permanent subsidies for lower- and middle-income Singaporeans needing help with their MediShield Life premiums will be given out automatically as far as possible, said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State (Health), who also reiterated the Government’s pledge to keep premiums affordable for all.
To make the process as hassle-free as possible, one’s household income per capita will be the determining factor, but she added that other factors could be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“It’s just like the Pioneer Generation (Package); our idea of commitment is that if it can be done automatically, we will do so. And then when there are cases where there might be exceptions, they can come to us on a case-by-case basis,” Dr Khor told reporters on the sidelines of a community event yesterday.
It was announced last week that about two of three households will get permanent subsidies and there will be transitional subsidies for all in the first four years after MediShield Life kicks in at the end of next year.
The government will provide special financial assistance similar to the Medifund scheme for individuals who require more aid, said Dr Khor, who said the details are still being worked out.
“Nobody would be dropped from MediShield Life just because they cannot afford to pay,” she said, also noting that the increase in premiums will, in most cases, be covered by the 1 per cent increase in employers’ Medisave contribution, which kicks in next year.
At a separate event yesterday, Mr Zainal Sapari, assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, said the Government would help those with no income or little savings, such as housewives.
“The Government is looking into this group of people to make sure every Singaporean will be covered through government subsidies or other help given by other organisations,” he said at the labour movement’s Family Recreation and Fun Carnival.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen also commented on the substantial enhancements to MediShield benefits announced last week.
Describing it as an important part of Singapore’s social security net, which is strengthened by schemes such as the Workfare Income Supplement and CPF Lifelong Income For The Elderly, he said: “We recognise that the Government has to do more. There will be more subsidies under MediShield Life and yet, at the same time, of course, all individuals must play their part.
“So, it’s a very important model — a Singapore model for our healthcare needs — and I believe this strikes a right balance between (the) Government doing more, individuals doing their part and, of course, individuals themselves risk pooling some of their health risks and I believe it will make our healthcare system much stronger.”
Dr Ng was speaking in Toa Payoh Central, where he joined more than 300 residents for a 40-storey vertical race.
Ensuring changes to the healthcare-financing system are properly communicated to the public is key because it will help in planning for retirement, said Dr Khor.
“We are painfully aware that the healthcare-financing system is not simple for Singaporeans to understand,” she said, adding that the Government is looking to engage the public through community events, healthcare professionals, grassroots organisations, voluntary welfare organisations, religious groups and employers.
“It’s also important to sustain this over time, because you can’t just do it once (or) ad-hoc. You have to do it on a sustained basis in order to deepen outreach and engagement, and also at various points in time when they need certain services.”
To that end, Dr Khor said producing comic strips or videos in various languages and dialects — such as the one in Hokkien to explain the Pioneer Generation Package — would help.