MediShield Life premiums a hot topic at Facebook chat

HOW high new MediShield Life premiums will rise, and whether they can and should be used for preventive health screening were hot topics at a webchat last night on changes to the insurance scheme to cover all for life.

But MediShield Life Review committee members Janet Ang, managing director of IBM Singapore, and Tan See Leng, managing director of the Parkway Pantai Group, kept mum on premiums, saying actuaries are still working out the numbers.

About 30 participants took part in the 90-minute chat on the Reach Facebook page.

One of them, Mr David Choo, suggested taxing the Medisave accounts of affluent people such as himself to help the poor pay their premiums.

Another way could be a "donation fund" to which those who want to help can contribute, said participant Leow Peng Fei, adding: "Government can set up Singapore Pools, why not CPF Pool?"

One participant suggested not increasing the premium rate as people aged, as they are likely to have less money as they get old.

There were people who wanted MediShield Life to pay for all medical expenses, including preventive health screening, traditional Chinese medicine, and treatment of chronic ailments.

Mr Richard Gan argued it was better to use health-care funds to pay for prevention than cure.

Agreeing, Ms Michelle Tan suggested the authorities think "outside the box" about the results Singapore wants to achieve.

Ms Ang reminded all that MediShield is for big hospital bills, and not all medical treatments.

However, Mr Wong Yung Pine urged the committee to "concentrate on having a healthy society" as many serious illnesses are preventable with lifestyle changes.

Ms Clarice Teo asked if it was possible for insurance to pay for basic biannual health screening.

Dr Tan replied that too many add-ons would increase premiums, so the committee is trying "to balance this judiciously".

On whether the all-inclusive policy of MediShield Life will be extended to the integrated plans (IPs) - for people wanting hospital treatment as private patients - Ms Ang said the committee is in discussion with insurers regarding "premiums, loading, IP upgrades etc, for those with pre-existing diseases".

Dr Tan asked for input on pre-funding, where higher premiums are paid when the insured is young to stem their rise later. Most thought it a good idea.

Dr Tan later described the quality of discussion as "high-calibre", while Ms Ang found the offers to help the less well off "heart warming".

salma@sph.com.sg

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