MediShield Life proposals this week

Review near complete; agreement reached on how much people should pay

The MediShield Life Review Committee is set to announce "most of its recommendations" this Thursday.

Chairman Bobby Chin also revealed that his team is "99 per cent completed with our work", including reaching an agreement on how much people should pay for MediShield Life - a new national insurance scheme which provides lifelong cover for every Singaporean and will kick in next year.

The committee had previously said that it plans to remove the current $300,000 lifetime limit on claims, increase claimable limits and halve patients' co-payments.

After Thursday's announcement, the committee aims to submit its final report to the Government by the end of this month, said Mr Chin.

Parliament is expected to debate the proposals in July when it next meets.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong promised in Parliament last Tuesday that the premiums would be "affordable".

Mr Chin, a former managing partner of accounting giant KPMG, declined to reveal how much the recommended premiums would be, but said the way they are structured would be similar to that for MediShield.

"MediShield premiums are age-based. In other words, as you grow older, the premiums will be higher," he said. "It's the same for MediShield Life."

The Government will provide support in three ways: permanent premium subsidies for the pioneer generation and the less well-off; Medisave top-ups for the elderly and low-income; and for those who still cannot afford the premiums, financial aid through Medifund, for instance.

But Mr Chin stressed that the committee, which went through 36 focus-group discussions over six months, during which more than a thousand Singaporeans came forward, had "to ensure that premiums are affordable for all Singaporeans, not just the low-income segment or the elderly".

One concern that was raised was coverage for conditions people were born with.

Mr Chin recalled how a mother had brought her daughter, who was born with a hole in the heart and for whom she could not get insurance, to one discussion session.

"We assured her that her daughter will be covered under MediShield Life, and she was relieved," said Mr Chin.

He noted that the inclusion of those with pre-existing conditions is a bugbear for "a segment of people who say 'Why are we paying for people who were not covered before?'"

This group, however, are outnumbered by another who are "willing to pay more as part of a community... to help fellow Singaporeans".

"If I don't claim under the insurance for MediShield Life, I should be happy because that means I'm healthy," said Mr Chin.

"If I don't claim, but other people claim, that way I'm helping fellow Singaporeans through the pooling of the insurance," he added.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg