MediShield Life: Details next week

Bill on universal health insurance to be presented to Parliament on Monday

The details of MediShield Life will be introduced when Parliament sits on Monday, a move that will bring the universal health insurance coverage one step closer to reality.

The proposed scheme - announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech in August 2013 - aims to provide Singaporeans and permanent residents with basic medical insurance for life, regardless of their health status.

The MediShield Life Scheme Bill is among four pieces of legislation that are to be presented on Monday when the House reconvenes after a one-month break.

The Bill is expected to be passed by end-March and, according to the Health Ministry, the scheme will be implemented from the end of this year.

Another Bill that looks set to attract popular attention is on curbs to liquor consumption.

The Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill is likely to spell out when and where people can consume liquor in public, as well as the hours allowed for the sale of alcohol.

But before the Bills are presented, the issue of consumer protection here will come under the spotlight during question time.

According to the Order Paper released by Parliament yesterday, MPs have filed 10 questions on it, the most on a topic.

Among their questions are calls to give more teeth to consumer protection agencies and to impose heavier penalties on errant retailers.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), who filed two questions, told The Straits Times: "The number of questions is a strong signal from those who represent the people on the ground, that we don't think the current situation is satisfactory, and that we ought to look for other options."

Last year, media reports about a Vietnamese tourist who went down on his knees to beg for the return of his money from mobile-phone shop owner Jover Chew in Sim Lim Square horrified many Singaporeans.

The mall had a reputation for housing shops that allegedly cheat consumers, including tourists.

Another topic of interest is falling oil prices.

Four MPs, including Mr Alvin Yeo (Chua Chu Kang GRC), have filed questions on its impact on Singapore's economy.

Said Mr Yeo: "The conventional wisdom is that an oil-importing country like ours will benefit, but it may not be so clear when we have so many companies in the oil and gas sector.

"I want to know if this will dampen growth."

A total of 72 questions have been filed, including one on the controversial land reclamation projects in the Strait of Johor. They are Forest City near Tuas and Princess Cove near the Causeway.

Both were recently given the green light to restart work.

Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) wants an update on the results of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out by Malaysia.

He said: "I'm concerned about the impact the projects have on our waters and our security.

"I also want to know if the EIA was conducted solely by Malaysia, or if it was a joint one, and if not, whether we plan to do one."

The other Bills are on regulating deep-seabed mining activities and a new tribunal to deal with feuding neighbours.

The House will also debate three Bills, including one on changes to the Industrial Relations Act.

It seeks to let Singapore have a union for professionals, managers and executives, a group that rank-and-file unions cannot represent because of possible conflicts of interest.

rachelay@sph.com.sg