No plans to raise Medisave withdrawal, Chas subsidy limits

Medisave withdrawals have been enhanced in recent years, including allowing its use to pay for scans, and for people aged 65 and older to use $200 more a year for outpatient care, said Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat. With the launch of Me
Medisave withdrawals have been enhanced in recent years, including allowing its use to pay for scans, and for people aged 65 and older to use $200 more a year for outpatient care, said Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat. With the launch of MediShield Life, more large hospital bills are already covered.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

While there are people who max out their Medisave withdrawal or Chas subsidy limits every year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) does not intend to raise either limit at the moment.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) had asked if the MOH would review the current caps for Medisave withdrawal, especially for older people.

Up to $600 a year can be withdrawn for scans.

Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat said exceptional cases will be looked at individually, and the best way to deal with it is to write to the ministry.

Ms Lee also asked how many people had reached the withdrawal limits and requested to be allowed to take more out.

Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat said exceptional cases will be looked at individually, and the best way to deal with it is to write to the ministry... He said MOH receives about 200 such appeals (to withdraw past the limit) a year, and about half are allowed to do so. The decision is made on a case-by-case basis, such as complex treatment needed due to unforeseen complications, or if the family is facing financial difficulties caused by unemployment or retrenchment.

Mr Chee said MOH receives about 200 such appeals a year, and about half are allowed to do so. The decision is made on a case-by-case basis, such as complex treatment needed due to unforeseen complications, or if the family is facing financial difficulties caused by unemployment or retrenchment.

Mr Chee said Medisave withdrawals had already been enhanced in recent years, including allowing its use to pay for scans, and for people aged 65 and older to use $200 more a year for outpatient care.

With the launch of MediShield Life in 2015, more large hospital bills are already covered.

He said: "From January to June 2016, MediShield Life and Medisave together were able to cover more than 90 per cent of the post-subsidy bill for inpatient hospitalisation and day surgery."

But he promised to monitor the affordability of subsidised care and to regularly review Medisave withdrawal limits.

Ms Lee also asked how many Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) blue-card holders had used up their entitlement over the past three years, and if the ministry would consider raising the annual subsidy cap from the current $480.

Mr Chee said about 2 per cent of the 550,000 people with the blue Chas card, which gives them subsidised care at private general practitioner (GP) clinics, would use their full entitlement for the year.

He said patients can also draw up to $400 from their Medisave to pay for treatment of chronic conditions.

He added: "Through initiatives such as the family medicine clinics and upcoming primary care networks, we are also providing support to selected GPs to deliver more effective chronic-disease management for patients."

This refers to team-based care where doctors, nurses and therapists work together to care for patients with chronic problems.

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Correction note: The story has been edited for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'No plans to raise Medisave withdrawal, Chas subsidy limits'. Print Edition | Subscribe