Khor: Medifund to continue expanding

Budget will detail how to help people cope with health-care costs, she says

Medifund will continue to be expanded as one of the ways to help Singaporeans cope with large hospital bills, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor said yesterday.

A safety net for the very poor, Medifund is a government endowment fund that helps those in need pay for their hospital bills. Last year, it paid out $100 million.

Dr Khor was speaking at government feedback unit Reach's first pre-Budget dialogue for the year, at which she also said the Budget would have details on some other measures to help people with health-care costs.

These include the move to expand the Community Health Assist Scheme, or Chas, to family members under age 40, in households with monthly per capita income of $1,800 or less. Holders of the Chas card are entitled to subsidies at hundreds of private general practitioners and dentists.

Details on higher subsidies for specialist outpatient clinics will also be out in the upcoming Budget, Dr Khor said.

The Government's ongoing review of national health insurance scheme MediShield will also look into how to help people in terms of large bills, she added.

Dr Khor, who is also the chairman of Reach, spoke at the end of last night's dialogue in which some 60 Singaporeans took part. The two-hour event was held at the National Library Building.

They discussed issues such as how to build a more inclusive society and to help businesses.

The participants ranged from students to businessmen. Several expressed concerns about vulnerable groups in society, such as the elderly, low-income and disabled.

They agreed that there were many schemes in place to help these groups but said more should be done to make sure the help actually reaches those who need it.

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo agreed, saying: "The Government is more capable of dispensing help in a very administratively efficient way. We have the community development councils set up. But what this group is telling us is, being administratively efficient is not good enough.

"The next thing to do is to make sure we bridge the distance between the help that's available, and those who need that help," she said.

Participants also suggested building more one-stop centres to provide holistic help to those in need. Others suggested ways for Singapore to be more inclusive.

Ms Judy Wee, senior manager at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, said she hoped school buildings, including libraries and assembly halls, could be more accessible to disabled students.

The public can also give their views on the upcoming Budget at www.reach.gov.sg/budgetsg or join in the discussion forums until Jan 29 next year.

From Dec 12, netizens must log into the Reach website discussion forum using their Facebook accounts before they can comment.

In a short note to Reach contributors posted on the Reach website, Dr Khor said of the move to require users to register: "We hope this enhancement will strengthen trust within the Reach community and further enhance Reach as a safe harbour for discussions to take place."

charyong@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 29, 2013