Raise Medisave withdrawal limit for diabetes patients

To help Singaporeans manage diabetes, the Government has allowed Medisave to be used for related outpatient treatments. But is the withdrawal limit of $400 enough?

The average blood sugar test strip costs about $1. A person with Type 1 or 2 diabetes is expected to test himself two to six times a day, 365 days of the year, which equates to $730 to $2,190 a year for test strips.

Then, there are other essentials such as oral medication and insulin needles. Some of the newer oral diabetes medication costs as much as $2 to $3 a tablet.

Diabetes often comes with a cluster of other conditions, known as the metabolic syndrome. This includes hypertension and high cholesterol, both of which are recognised by the Ministry of Health as claimable chronic diseases and often require medication to manage. Yet, the withdrawal limit remains unchanged.

One can tag on to family members' Medisave, but as family sizes get smaller, those without dependants will have limited options.

The Medisave withdrawal limit and $52,000 minimum sum are meant to help members avoid overusing their Medisave savings.

However, poor diabetes control for prolonged periods increases the risk of diabetes-related complications. If the cost of managing diabetes becomes so great that the only way for an individual to manage is to compromise his own care, then the very purpose of Medisave is defeated.

To lower the burden of daily diabetes care, the Government should consider looking at increasing the limit for those on oral medication to between $700 and $800.

And for those who need to use the blood test strips and insulin, the limit should be set at $1,000 to $1,200 to take into account the added cost of the test strips and insulin needles.

Gerard Wong Choon Hoe

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Raise Medisave withdrawal limit for diabetes patients'. Print Edition | Subscribe