SINGAPORE - Another half-a-million Singaporeans will receive help from the Government with their medical expenses.
Although they will get less than the $8 billion package awarded to the Pioneer Generation, "a significant sum" will be set aside to help this group, dubbed the Merdeka Generation - those who were born in the 1950s, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
While these people were too young to participate in the events leading to Singapore's independence in 1965, Mr Lee said: "Most were old enough to sense the electricity in the air, to share the excitement of the changes, to feel the hope of a brighter tomorrow."
"I think we owe something to them," he said at the National Day Rally on Sunday (Aug 19).
Healthcare was one of two areas in which the Government "will spare no effort" to help citizens, Mr Lee promised in his annual state-of-the-nation speech.
The other is housing.
The Merdeka package will cover similar ground as the Pioneer package, that is, outpatient subsidies, Medisave top-ups, MediShield Life premium subsidies and payouts for long-term care.
Although those in the Merdeka Generation will get lower benefits than the Pioneers, what they do get "will go some way to relieve their healthcare worries", said Mr Lee. "More importantly, it will show our appreciation for the Merdeka Generation and their contributions."
Details of how much help will be given will be released later.
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health, welcomed the move, saying that the GPC had previously asked the Ministry of Health for further assistance to this group, "who will have increasing healthcare needs".
He added: "Their contributions are clear and unquestioned."
The Government will also extend subsidies to all Singaporeans with chronic ailments who are getting treatment in the private sector.
They will be entitled to a Community Health Assist Card, which lets them get treated by private general practitioners while enjoying government subsidies.
Currently, only slightly more than 1 million Singaporeans who qualify through means testing, and the Pioneer Generation, get such subsidies. Going forward, these will be extended to all with chronic ailments regardless of income.
But benefits will be tiered according to income. Now, those with the blue card get up to $480 a year for 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.
He added: "I think all of us will appreciate a little bit of help with the regular medical bills for such chronic conditions."