ElderShield being reviewed; panel to submit proposals by end-2017

An elderly using a walking aid to climb a pedestrian overhead bridge.
An elderly using a walking aid to climb a pedestrian overhead bridge.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

ElderShield, which covers 1.2 million people aged 40 to 83 for severe disability, is up for review.

This is to ensure that it can "provide adequate, affordable and sustainable old-age severe disability coverage for Singaporeans", said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press statement yesterday.

Recommendations on how to make the national disability insurance more relevant are scheduled to be submitted before the end of next year by a 14-member committee headed by Mr Chaly Mah, chairman of the Singapore Accountancy Commission.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the review at the National Day Rally in August, calling it the "one remaining piece" to strengthen Singapore's social safety net.

The Government had set up the Pioneer Generation Package in 2014 to provide about 450,000 seniors with Medisave top-ups, higher medical subsidies and disability assistance.

Following an extensive review, MediShield Life was made compulsory, covering everyone for life from November last year.

Mr Lee said at the Rally: "We hope ElderShield will be able to cover more people, provide more protection and is affordable."

Set up in 2002, ElderShield was enhanced in 2007 following complaints by many people that its monthly payout of $300 for up to five years was not enough to cover the expenses of the severely disabled, nor was five years long enough.

This led to the launch of ElderShield400, which pays $400 for up to six years. People who felt this was still not enough could buy higher coverage with ElderShield Supplements.

The premiums are fixed based on the age of entry. The annual premium until age 65 for a man who joins at 40 is $175; this is $218 for a woman who joins at the same age. Women pay more as their life expectancy is longer, so they have a higher chance of making claims.

Up to $600 a year can be taken from Medisave to pay the premiums.

Unlike MediShield Life, which is compulsory, ElderShield is voluntary and currently covers two in three people in the applicable age group. Those who are 84 years and older this year cannot join ElderShield as they were older than the cut-off of 70 at the launch of the scheme in 2002.

Minister of State for Health, and Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat suggested improvements to the scheme could include lifelong payouts rather than payouts for a fixed period, and government subsidies to help poorer people pay the premiums.

The ministry said one in two people who is healthy at age 65 is at risk of developing a long-term disability in his or her lifetime. So far, about $90 million has been paid out to about 12,400 people.

The MOH said the committee, which has already met once, will need to "consider key issues and trade-offs involved in the review of the ElderShield parameters, such as the balance between benefit enhancements and premium levels".

They should get feedback from people, experts and other groups.

More information can be found at www.eldershield.sg

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'ElderShield being reviewed; panel to submit proposals by end-2017'. Print Edition | Subscribe