The recent report that a patient could claim only $4.50 for a medical bill of $4,477 from MediShield Life (MSL) has put the national health insurance plan's coverage in the spotlight. The patient's total bill for a procedure at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) was over $12,000, but came down to $4,477 after government subsidies. This amount exceeded the MSL limit for the procedure, and a claim of only $4.50 was permitted in the end. Two questions arise: Are MSL claim limits too low even for treatment at subsidised, government-run facilities? Or were charges at the SNEC simply out of whack? The SNEC has said it will review its charges. And in a sign that under-coverage is not confined to a few isolated patients, the Ministry of Health revealed that eight in 10 subsidised bills were within the MediShield Life claim limits, and nine in 10 were within $230 of the claim limits. For some context: When MediShield Life was launched in 2015, one in 10 subsidised bills exceeded MSL claim limits, but it is now two in 10. In other words, claims exceeding coverage limits have doubled in three years.
Just as MSL has claim limits to cap the insurance system's exposure to big bills, it may be time to cap the amount that patients must pay, health commentators here have suggested. One argued that limiting Singaporeans' exposure to big medical bills that may financially ruin them and their family is necessary for genuine peace of mind.