Broaden criteria for financial aid schemes

I do not think it is cheating for a patient to apply for financial assistance even though he might have some $30,000 in savings (Plug loopholes in financial assistance schemes, by Mrs Ng Kim Yong; May 4).

The patient may have scrimped and saved and set aside the amount as a fixed deposit for his old age.

He may maintain another savings account to withdraw money for daily living, such as food, utilities, transport and miscellaneous needs, including ad hoc house repairs.

He may have been out of a job for a prolonged period of time.

When assessing a patient's suitability for financial assistance, a social worker may have looked at other factors, such as proof of his income and expenditure.

Has the patient taken an overseas holiday or signed expensive telco contracts?

If he has led a frugal lifestyle, and has less than $80,000 in savings, less than $25,000 in his Medisave account and around $10,000 in his Central Provident Fund Retirement Account (provided he has never withdrawn his CPF savings before), then he should be classified as a needy patient.

The Health Ministry mentions in its reply (Measures to ensure financial aid is given to those in need; May 11) that periodic reviews are conducted to assess if the financial assistance should be adjusted because of patients' changing circumstances.

Given the high inflation and rising prices of basic essentials, the ministry should also review the eligible criteria in tandem and not base the assessment on old rules set one or two decades ago.

Plugging the loopholes in financial assistance schemes may inadvertently cause patients who are not so poor to delay seeking needed medical attention.

Priscilla Poh Beng Hoon (Ms)