Allow use of Medisave to pay nursing home charges

It is time all policies relating to seniors were reviewed in keeping with the times (Are Singaporeans ready for Ah Kong to age in place?; Aug 30).

By 2030, one in four Singaporeans will be aged 65 years and above.

An ageing population has economic implications with increasing social costs. This is further aggravated by our low fertility rate.

Over the years, the various schemes and programmes for seniors have been put in place with the topping up of funds to cater to their needs.

To be effective, the funds should as far as possible be expended annually and not be carried over to the following year.

Of course, all expenditure should be justified to prevent abuse.

There should also be flexibility when it comes to the elderly, for example, in the use of their Medisave for clinic, hospital and other charges.

One area of concern is nursing homes. As much as families prefer to care for their elderly in their own homes, more often than not, it is the practicality of looking after them which family members, given that they do not have any nursing care experience or that their maids are untrained, cite as the reason for sending their elderly relatives to nursing homes.

However, even in affiliated government nursing homes, which are heavily subsidised, some find it a struggle to pay the monthly fees.

It is common to hear that some do not even wish to bring home elderly patients discharged from hospitals because they cannot afford to put them in nursing homes.

Healthcare, housing and retirement savings are vital in ensuring our seniors age gracefully.

Where the lower and lower-middle income groups are concerned, help must be made available to them so that they will not be disadvantaged.

Among other things, perhaps the authorities could embark on a cautious approach by allowing elderly residents who are 80 years old and above to tap their Medisave accounts to pay for the monthly nursing home fees if they have at least $10,000 in their accounts.

This will certainly lighten the burden on family members who would otherwise have to fork out cash.

Andrew Seow Chwee Guan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2018, with the headline 'Allow use of Medisave to pay nursing home charges'. Print Edition | Subscribe