ElderShield review to consider if scheme should be made mandatory

The ElderShield insurance scheme is currently being reviewed to see how it could be improved.
The ElderShield insurance scheme is currently being reviewed to see how it could be improved.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - As the severe disability insurance scheme ElderShield is being reviewed, one new question is whether it should remain voluntary on an opt-out basis, or should be made mandatory instead.

This is among the feedback that has been received by the ElderShield Review Committee so far, said Mr Chaly Mah, chairman of the 14-member committee, on Wednesday night (January 11).

He was speaking to reporters at the first in a series of public consultation sessions on reviewing the scheme.

ElderShield is an insurance scheme for people with severe disabilities who are unable to carry out daily activities such as eating, dressing or taking a bath on their own.

The voluntary, opt-out scheme currently gives payouts of up to $400 a month for up to six years, for beneficiaries aged 40 and above. Those aged 85 and above this year are not on the scheme as they exceeded the maximum age to enter the scheme when it was introduced in 2002.

The scheme is being reviewed to see how it can be improved: for instance, what the appropriate level of ElderShield coverage and benefits should be, and how to keep premiums affordable even if benefits go up.

Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat, who was also present as an observer at Wednesday night's discussion, said it was important to balance between competing concerns. For instance, raising benefits or extending their duration would necessarily have an impact on premiums, he noted.

On the question of whether the scheme should remain voluntary, Mr Chee said that feedback received included the view that in order for a risk-pooling scheme like this to work, it might have to be made mandatory.

But if that happens, the question then is how to ensure that low-income Singaporeans will be able to afford it, he added.

The review was announced last August and is being carried out by the ElderShield Review Committee, which will submit its recommendations by the end of the year.

The committee is in the midst of gathering feedback from the public, experts and stakeholders.

On Wednesday night, 47 participants aged 23 to 75 took part in a 90-minute-long closed-door discussion. They included retirees, caregivers, housewives and financial advisers.

The next sessions in the public consultation series, which runs until June, are on Feb 18 and March 23. Those interested can sign up at the ElderShield website at www.eldershield.sg, email the Health Ministry at moh_qsm@ moh.gov.sg or call 6325-9220.