NO SINGAPOREAN LEFT BEHIND: HELP WITH HEALTHCARE

Subsidy for MediShield Life premiums

Govt will offset premium increase for everyone for the next few years

NO ONE needs to worry about having to pay higher premiums when MediShield Life is introduced next year.

The Government has promised to provide a subsidy to offset the premium increase for everyone for the next few years, including high-income earners.

With the change, MediShield insurance will cover everyone for life, even those with pre-existing diseases.

It will also provide better coverage, with patients expected to pay less cash for big hospital bills.

As a result, premiums are expected to go up significantly, leading to high anxiety about affordability, especially among older citizens.

Premiums now range from $50 to $1,190 a year.

For lower- and middle-income groups, help will go beyond the initial few years.

They will be given "significant permanent subsidies" so they will be able to pay the entire premiums out of their regular Medisave contributions.

The CPF contribution rate by employers will go up by one percentage point for all workers from next year, with the addition coming from employers.

Anyone facing financial difficulties will get additional help to pay his annual premium.

Details of these subsidies will come later, as the MediShield Life Review Committee will submit its recommendations only in May.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Bobby Chin, who heads the review committee, told The Straits Times he was "heartened" that the Government has heeded the call to provide premium support for the elderly and lower-income group.

He said: "Premium affordability has been a significant concern raised during the committee's public consultation process, and it is reassuring that the Government has committed to providing subsidies for the lower- and middle-income."

He promised that he and his committee will "develop a set of good and sustainable recommendations that will give every Singaporean peace of mind from large hospitalisation bills".

Dr Lam Pin Min, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said that the generous help for seniors

will "allay the concerns of the pioneer generation about the affordability of the MediShield Life premiums".

Seniors with healthy Medisave accounts who have difficulty paying for their outpatient treatments can take heart from another new measure.

As contributions to Medisave will go up by one percentage point, the Ministry of Health will further relax the use of Medisave for outpatient treatments.

It started with $300 a year for treatment of chronic problems. This was expanded in January 2012 to $400 a year for treatment of several mental conditions.

Last month, more uses were added, including osteoarthritis and Parkinson's disease.

Madam Lucy Bek, 66, said she hopes the new additions will include eye and dental treatments, as they are important for the elderly but are not cheap.

Meanwhile, both she and her husband Lewis Lew, also 66, plan to stay healthy as long as possible by eating well and exercising regularly, she said.

salma@sph.com.sg

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