Medisave, which was set up in 1984 as a component of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions to help defray hospital bills, is part of the infrastructure of self-provision for housing and retirement needs represented by the CPF. Like the overarching CPF scheme, Medisave has become such a fixture of financial self-protection that it is difficult to imagine life in Singapore without it. However, schemes must evolve with the times and the changing needs of the population if they are to remain relevant to the nation. In that spirit, members will, for the first time, be allowed to withdraw cash from their Medisave account. People who are severely disabled can do so from 2020, provided they or their spouse have at least $5,000 in their accounts. It is a promising development, but there could be some concern over sustainability. Is it wise to allow members to deplete their Medisave balances by drawing them down? Is Medisave now being opened to a wider range of uses, much as the reasons for withdrawals from the CPF scheme have widened? Is this safe?
However, to have kept Medisave where it was would have been problematic as well because it would have made life more difficult for those facing both severe disability and financial difficulties. In the event, the move represents measured flexibility in the administration of Medisave while preserving the fundamental principle of taking personal responsibility for healthcare needs.