MediShield Life to focus on three areas in second phase of review

Bobby Chin (left), presidential adviser and leader of a high-powered team tasked to design the new MediShield Life as part of the move to enlarge Singapore’s national medical insurance. The MediShield Life committee will focus on three areas in its
Bobby Chin (left), presidential adviser and leader of a high-powered team tasked to design the new MediShield Life as part of the move to enlarge Singapore’s national medical insurance. The MediShield Life committee will focus on three areas in its second phase of review. -- PHOTO: ZAOBAO

After consulting about 500 people from all walks of life in 14 focus group discussions, the MediShield Life Review Committee set up in November has identified three areas to focus on:

- The benefits, premiums and limits to be set for the new universal medical insurance, so that people will feel reassured that they can afford the healthcare that they need, and also be able to afford the higher premiums they will need to pay annually.

- How to bring everyone into the scheme. These are people who are currently uninsured, the elderly beyond insurable age, and those with pre-existing diseases that exclude them for coverage, and new citizens. Some in this group could be making claims from the start, and will certainly increase the payouts by MediShield. The question is who should pay for it - the people themselves, the government, or the rest of society. And how much needs to be paid so the scheme can work yet be fair to all.

- Integrated Plans. Two in three people have this added coverage, with plans pegged at public hospital B1 and A class wards, and private hospitals. The focus here is whether there should be greater regulation by the government and some standardisation of benefits and premiums.

Three sub-committees have been set up to look into these issues and are headed respectively by Dr Tan See Leng, Group Chief Executive Officer of Parkway Pantai, Dr Lee Chien Earn, Chief Executive Officer of Changi General Hospital (CGH) and Mrs Hauw Soo Hoon, Operating Partner of venture capital firm iGlobe Partners.

Chairman Mr Bobby Chin said at the review committee's first update yesterday, that greater education is also needed as many people were unclear about coverage and confused about MediShield and Medisave.

The committee also heard a "very strong call" on the Government to help the elderly and those in the lower income group pay for their insurance premiums. Mr Chin said his Committee will call on the Government to do so.

Ms Diana Chia, President of the National Trades Union Congress, said union members were generally supportive, but many expressed concern about overinsuring, since they are insured by their company, yet need to be part of MediShield Life.

Lawyer Abdul Rohim Sarip, who led discussions with the Malay community, said the general feeling was that higher premiums are fine, so long as they can be paid for with Medisave and do not require cash top-ups.

Mr Chin said this was the feedback it got from most of the sessions, that people would be happy if Medisave can be used to fully pay the premiums.

Mr Patrick Lee, Chairman of Sing Lun Holdings, said during the focus group discussions in Mandarin, people worried that premiums might be too much, especially if there is only one wage earner in the family.

Mrs Hauw said her sub-committee has already asked the insurers providing integrated plans that sit on top of the basic MediShield, if they plan to extend the universal coverage of the basic plan to their existing policy-holders.

When MediShield Life is launched next year, every Singaporean will be covered by the basic plan - pegged at subsidised ward in public hospitals - even for illnesses they already suffer from.