NTUC wants more coverage from MediShield Life, subsidies for more drugs

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has come up with a slew of changes it would like to see in the new MediShield Life insurance scheme so that healthcare "is affordable and accessible to all".

These include removing the higher deductibles that people over the age of 80 now have to pay, so they will be on par with everyone else.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong said on Monday that older people now feel that they are being discriminated against when they are already paying the highest amount in premiums. For instance, an 81-year-old patient going for day surgery today has to pay the first $3,000 of the bill before insurance kicks in. Younger patients only pay the first $1,500.

Other issues raised during eight focus group discussions involving more than 300 unionists, include having subsidies that cover more drugs and for patients to pay an even smaller share of big bills.

The MediShield Life Review committee headed by Mr Bobby Chin has already suggested halving the co-payment, so patients will only need to pay 10 per cent of the claimable amount for small bills and 5 per cent when claims exceed $5,000.

The union would like the patient's share to go down to 3 per cent for claims exceeding $10,000 - which account for less than 5 per cent of all bills, said Ms Cham.

It would also like the government to at least double the current 2 per cent tax rebate given to companies that practice portable medical insurance, by giving employees 1 per cent more for their Medisave accounts so they can buy their own insurance.

This scheme means they remain covered even if they change jobs or retire. The uptake for this is extremely low right now, Ms Cham said. As a result, there is duplication of coverage as the company pays for one insurance and the employee will have no choice but to buy into MediShield Life as that will be compulsory.

Something else its members want is for the insurance to cover more chronic ailments. Today, it covers only cancer, kidney failure and organ transplant.

Ms Diana Chia, NTUC president who is also on the review committee tasked with recommending the shape of the all-inclusive national healthcare insurance, said the union submitted its recommendations to the main committee last week.