The Government will do more to help Singaporeans cope with their medical bills, but those who are better off should not expect to receive the same degree of help as those who are poorer.
Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing spelt out the Government's approach to health-care financing yesterday, even as he sought to allay residents' worries about rising medical costs at a community dialogue.
"If each and every one of us just wants to take the maximum for ourselves, then we become a very selfish society," said Mr Chan, who is also the Second Minister for Defence.
"Those who have less, we should help them more," he said in reply to a resident's questions about how to cope with rising health-care costs.
At last month's National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Government will play a bigger role to build a fair society and will spend more to subsidise housing and health-care costs. Among the changes is the introduction of MediShield Life health insurance, which will cover all Singaporeans for life.
But while it is expected to fund a higher proportion of their hospital bills, it has also raised concerns as premiums that Singaporeans pay are expected to go up.
Health-care issues dominated the community dialogue at Bukit Batok yesterday, which was attended by nearly 100 residents.
Ms Janet Lee, 43, a kidney transplant patient, is worried about her long-term medical bill, and materials planning manager Mohamad Jasmani, 46, asked if he would be able to afford the higher MediShield Life premiums.
While business owner Lim Su Wee, 36, suggested more publicity be given to the newly expanded Community Health Assist Scheme card, which lets low-income patients get subsidised treatment at private medical and dental clinics.
Responding to their worries, Mr Chan pledged: "This Government will endeavour to do what we can to make sure that all the basic needs of our people are taken care of, in terms of housing, health care."
He added that the Ministry of Health will discuss with Singaporeans over the next year some of the "difficult details" of the new MediShield Life's coverage and premiums, and asked for time to work through the process.
Besides health care, the residents also raised questions on the stress students face in schools and the housing needs of singles.
Mr Chan told reporters later that one of the challenges for the Government going forward is to help Singaporeans achieve consensus on government policies, including the principles of how the policies are made.
That is why he decided to hold the dialogue in the style of the Our Singapore Conversation, so that residents could also discuss the issues among themselves.
The minister spent the morning visiting the Bukit Batok ward in Jurong GRC with its MP David Ong.
They were accompanied by the constituency's other MPs Halimah Yacob, Desmond Lee and Ang Wei Neng, as well as Yuhua SMC MP Grace Fu.
Mr Chan visited a coffee shop, flagged off a mass walk, watched residents take part in various sports activities, and also launched a cookbook compiling residents' recipes.
At the book launch, Mr Chan gamely tried one of the recipes by cooking a plate of sesame oil chicken. He then served it to a group of residents at a block party.
Mr Ong said the cookbook promotes community spirit by encouraging residents to cook for one another.
Resident P.S. Sekar, a 47-year-old permanent resident from India, agreed. "I have been in Singapore for 17 years and this is my way of getting to know my neighbours."
Mr Sekar contributed a dessert recipe to the book and prepared the dish for residents at the block party. "Cooking can also help foreigners and locals understand one another better," he added.