Medifund amount disbursed to help patients with medical bills falls even as applications rise

Patients waiting for their turn to see doctors at the orthopaedic surgery department of the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital on June 30, 2015.
Patients waiting for their turn to see doctors at the orthopaedic surgery department of the Ng Teng Fong General Hospital on June 30, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The amount that the Medical Endowment Fund (Medifund) disbursed to help patients with their medical bills fell by 2.6 per cent for the Financial Year (FY) of 2015, compared with a year ago.

This is despite a rising number of approved applications for assistance.

In a statement issued on Wednesday (Nov 23), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that Medifund provided $155.2 million in assistance in FY2015, which ended on March 31 this year, compared with $159.3 million in FY2014.

MOH added that Medifund assistance for care in public hospitals and institutions hit $129.2 million in FY2015. This is a drop from $135.7 million in FY2014.

However, assistance disbursed for intermediate and long-term care increased from $23.6 million to $26 million over the same period.

This comes even as the number of applications approved for Medifund and Medifund Silver assistance grew 9 per cent to reach 1,096,628 in FY2015, compared with 1,006,168 in FY2014.

MOH said that almost all (99.9 per cent) Medifund applications received were approved.

The ministry explained that the lower Medifund assistance in FY2015 was due to several factors that "improved overall affordability of healthcare".

These are recent outpatient subsidy enhancements for lower- and middle-income and Pioneer Generation patients, as well as changes in Medisave coverage to allow more flexible use to cover more chronic conditions and scans.

The ministry also noted that between FY2012 and FY2015, Medifund assistance provided to patients had increased by 15 per cent every year on average.

Medifund, which was introduced in 1993, helps Singaporeans who are unable to afford their medical bills, even after government subsidies, using MediShield Life, private insurance, Medisave, and cash payments.

MOH said on Wednesday that, on average, the amount of Medifund assistance provided was $1,529 for each in-patient treatment and $77 per out-patient treatment.

The ministry added that at the end of FY2015, the capital sums for Medifund and Medifund Silver stood at $2.78 billion and $1.22 billion respectively.