Parliament: MOH gets 200 appeals a year to use more Medisave monies to pay healthcare bills

People waiting for their turns at a waiting room at Tampines Polyclinic.
People waiting for their turns at a waiting room at Tampines Polyclinic.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health (MOH) receives about 200 appeals a year from people who have used up the maximum Medisave withdrawal limit for them to use more of their Medisave monies to pay for their healthcare bills.

About half are allowed to do so, said Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat.

The decision on whether they can use more of their Medisave money is decided on a case by case basis.

Agreement is given if there are special circumstances, such as complex treatment needed due to unforeseen complications, or if the family is facing financial difficulties caused by unemployment or retrenchment.

Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) had asked for details and if "the Ministry will review the cap on use of Medisave in line with the rise in medical cost".

The answer was no. Mr Chee said Medisave withdrawals had already been enhanced in recent years, including paying for scans, and for people aged 65 years and older to use $200 more a year for outpatient care.

With the launch of MediShield Life in 2015, more large hospital bills are already covered.

Said Mr Chee: "From January to June 2016, MediShield Life and Medisave together were able to cover more than 90 per cent of the post-subsidy bill for inpatient hospitalisation and day surgeries."

But he promised to monitor the affordability of subsidised care.

Dr Lee also asked how many Chas blue card holders had used up their entitlement over the past three years, and if the ministry would consider raising the annual cap for this from the current $480.

Mr Chee said about 2 per cent of the 550,000 people with the blue Chas card, which gives them subsidised care at a private general practice (GP) clinic, would use their full entitlement for the year.

Aside from the subsidy, these patients can also draw up to $400 from their Medisave to pay for treatment of their chronic conditions.

He added: "Through initiatives such as the Family Medicine Clinics and upcoming Primary Care Networks, we are also providing support to selected GPs to deliver more effective chronic disease management for patients."