Have simple system that gives maids proper healthcare cover

Maids who are undergoing training seen at Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.
Maids who are undergoing training seen at Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.PHOTO: ST FILE

There are three considerations worth highlighting when it comes to insurance coverage for foreign domestic workers (Insurance coverage for maids too low: Agents, NGOs, April 20).

First, the unpredictable nature of catastrophic illness or injury means that no matter what the insured amount is, there will always be some workers and their employers who will suffer tremendous financial hardship. Employers are mainly everyday Singaporeans who do not have the financial buffer to absorb the fees for catastrophic health events sustained by their domestic workers.

The Ministry of Manpower reports that 96 per cent of claims are covered by the existing schemes, but this means that 4 per cent of families are at risk of financial hardship through no fault of their own.

Second, having more insurance options, while useful, is not a real solution. What is needed, instead, might be a structural backstop which covers employers' obligations once expenses exceed a pre-identified amount, say, $5,000 or even $10,000. This could be funded by a proportion of premiums, or even by the Government and non-governmental organisations.

Indonesian domestic helper Ani Sumarni and her employer, Mr Saw, were fortunate that crowdfunding platform GiveAsia managed to help raise $49,200, which will help greatly in paying off the hospital bill, which stood at $60,300 as of last week.

But we cannot depend on the vagaries of crowdfunding to protect Singaporeans from financial ruin.

Finally, private healthcare fees are high in Singapore. Foreign domestic workers are not eligible for subsidised healthcare, and these women are of modest means.

Let us establish a simple system to enable them to work here with peace of mind for themselves and the quarter of a million Singapore families that employ them.

Jeremy Lim (Dr)

Chair, Medical Service Committee and Board Member

HealthServe

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 24, 2019, with the headline 'Have simple system that gives maids proper healthcare cover'. Print Edition | Subscribe