Pioneer Generation: Many pioneers not aware subsidies on drugs start next Jan

Mr Steven Ang, 70, outside Marine Parade Polyclinic after a medical consultation yesterday. The retired businessman called for better communication from the authorities on the additional subsidies for pioneers.
Mr Steven Ang, 70, outside Marine Parade Polyclinic after a medical consultation yesterday. The retired businessman called for better communication from the authorities on the additional subsidies for pioneers.ST PHOTO: MARISSA LEE

Pioneers were caught off guard yesterday when told that the additional subsidies do not apply to medicines yet.

Many were not aware that although their Pioneer Generation cards entitled them to additional discounts on subsidised services, the enhanced subsidies on drugs will start only on Jan 1.

"Many old folk get confused by these different timings," said retired businessman Steven Ang, 70. "They expect all the (Pioneer Generation) benefits to kick in at the same time, but some of them do not know that the enhanced drug subsidy kicks in next year."

Starting yesterday, pioneers receive an additional 50 per cent off subsidised services such as consultation and blood tests at polyclinics and specialist outpatient clinics. The similar discount for subsidised drugs applies from Jan 1.

The Ministry of Health yesterday said more time is needed for that because enhancement to the drug subsidies is an "extensive change" involving the specialist outpatient clinics and polyclinics.

The date of implementation was also highlighted in the mass media, dialogues and posters, said the ministry in a statement.

Polyclinics have also displayed notices to inform patients.

But many elderly patients missed the messages.

Mr Luan Bao An, 66, for instance, presented his Pioneer Generation card and expected to get more subsidies for his high blood pressure medication. "But I did not know that we get more discounts only in January," said the retired goods driver, who was informed by polyclinic staff.

Mr Johnny Aw, 65, a security guard, was bewildered when he found out about it from polyclinic staff. "Why must it take so long to update the medicine scheme? Why don't they start enhanced subsidies at the same time?"

Mr Ang called for better communication from the authorities. "The Government could have given more details in the catchy television and radio commercials to spread the word about when we get what."

Or perhaps, suggested retired education officer Tjong Tjie Moi, 72, doing so by word of mouth is the most appropriate. "Those who know the details on Pioneer Generation cards can share them with their friends to clear the air, so they know even before they go to polyclinics," she said.

kashc@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Samantha Boh, Marissa Lee and Tjoa Shze Hui