'Merdeka Generation' to get healthcare help

People born in the 1950s celebrating National Day.
People born in the 1950s celebrating National Day.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

About half a million Singaporeans - those born in the 1950s - will receive help from the Government with their medical expenses.

Announcing a new multibillion-dollar package to help this group, dubbed the Merdeka Generation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that "a significant sum" will be set aside for this purpose.

The Merdeka package will cover similar ground as the $8 billion Pioneer Generation Package which was given in 2014 to those born in 1949 or earlier. This comprised outpatient subsidies, Medisave top-ups, MediShield Life premium subsidies and payouts for long-term care.

Although the Merdeka Generation will get lower benefits than those for the Pioneers, what they will get "will go some way to relieve their healthcare worries", said Mr Lee.

Details of the package will be released next year.

Noting that while members of the Merdeka Generation were too young to participate in the events leading to Singapore's Independence in 1965, they "lived through the battles and upheavals of the Merdeka struggle", and grew up understanding what was at stake. "They accepted hardships, made sacrifices, answered the call of duty and worked with their leaders to build a better tomorrow."

The men were among the earliest batches who served national service, while many left school to start work early, especially women, to support their families and siblings, he noted.

"I think we owe something to them," he said at the National Day Rally yesterday, drawing applause.

Healthcare is one of the areas in which the Government "will spare no effort" to help citizens, Mr Lee promised in his speech, pledging that "no one should be denied medical care because they could not afford it" .

"This is my commitment to you," he said.

Mr Lee also announced that the Government will extend subsidies to all Singaporeans with chronic ailments who are getting treatment in the private sector. They can get a Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) card which lets them get treated by private doctors while enjoying government subsidy.

Now, about one million Singaporeans who qualify through means testing, and the Pioneer Generation, get such subsidy. Going forward, it will be extended to all with chronic ailments regardless of income.

Benefits will be tiered according to income. Now, those with the blue card get up to $480 a year for the treatment of chronic conditions, while those with the orange card get up to $300.

Managing chronic conditions well will allow people to live a full life, said Mr Lee, adding: "I think all of us will appreciate a little bit of help with the regular medical bills for such chronic conditions."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2018, with the headline ''Merdeka Generation' to get healthcare help'. Print Edition | Subscribe