Keeping healthcare affordable will continue to be Gan's focus

Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alvin Yeo (left) will be stepping down. The PAP's team in the GRC will comprise (starting with second from left) new candidate Yee Chia Hsing, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, Parliamentary Secretary Low Yen Ling and backbencher Zaq
Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alvin Yeo (left) will be stepping down. The PAP's team in the GRC will comprise (starting with second from left) new candidate Yee Chia Hsing, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, Parliamentary Secretary Low Yen Ling and backbencher Zaqy Mohamad.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that his focus will continue to be on keeping healthcare costs affordable, even if the issue does not feature in the coming elections the way it did the last round.

"Rather than focusing on whether the concerns of the people (over medical costs) have subsided, I always assume that people will continue to be concerned about healthcare costs," he said.

Mr Gan was speaking at a press conference to introduce the People's Action Party (PAP) team that will stand in Chua Chu Kang GRC. Besides himself, the PAP's candidates there are backbencher Zaqy Mohamad, Parliamentary Secretary Low Yen Ling and newcomer Yee Chia Hsing, a banker.

Mr Gan listed out the programmes the Government has rolled out in the past four years to bring healthcare costs down, but stressed that his ministry has not become complacent about the issue. The $8 billion Pioneer Generation Package substantially defrays medical costs for the elderly, while the Community Health Assist Scheme subsidises clinic care for a wide range of illnesses for the lower- and middle-income groups.

In addition, universal health insurance scheme MediShield Life will start in November.

Besides personal healthcare costs, Mr Gan emphasised that the costs of the system as a whole have to be monitored. "We have to ensure that the system will still be affordable for the country and for society to share," he said. The new health schemes defray expenses for individuals, but involve substantial government subsidies and increased spending. The way to keep system costs under control is to "ensure that patients get the appropriate care and not unnecessary or excessive care", he said, adding that Singaporeans can do their part by living healthy lifestyles.

The newcomer in the team, Mr Yee, 44, replaces retiring MP Alvin Yeo, 53, in the Nanyang division.

Mr Yeo is stepping down after two political terms. He has served on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, and said one of his prouder parliamentary moments was speaking up in defence of high ministerial pay - something he believed was "unpopular but right".

Mr Yeo said he was making way for new blood, and was looking forward to spending more time with his family. His message to Mr Yee was: "Look after your people. Because, ultimately, this job is about the people. Not the bricks and mortar, upgrading flats and so on... If you look after the people, you'll have their support."

Mr Yee is the head of Catalist at CIMB Bank Singapore. The father of two has been active in the grassroots since 2011. Last year, he was deployed to Workers' Party-held ward Punggol East as a potential PAP candidate. But he was moved to Nanyang three weeks ago. This, said Mr Yee - who grew up in Jurong West but now lives in Bukit Timah - was a "homecoming".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2015, with the headline 'Keeping healthcare affordable will continue to be Gan's focus'. Print Edition | Subscribe