$85 of $200 Flexi-Medisave used on average

The average person used $85 of his $200 Flexi-Medisave allotment in the scheme's first nine months, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Around 200,000 seniors have tapped the scheme in its first year, added the ministry in response to queries from The Straits Times.

Flexi-Medisave was introduced in April 2015 to help seniors pay less out-of-pocket for outpatient care at public institutions and general practitioners under the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas).

Under the scheme, Singaporeans aged 65 and above can use an additional $200 to pay for treatment, on top of the Medisave limits imposed for other schemes.

For example, if they have hit their $300 Medisave limit for outpatient scans, they can use Flexi-Medisave to pay for the remaining amount.

"The withdrawal amounts for Flexi-Medisave have been generally small, with an average of $85 withdrawn per patient from April to December 2015," a ministry spokesman said. "As Flexi- Medisave was implemented recently, MOH is still monitoring its use by the elderly." The figures for 2016 are not yet available.

Health experts interviewed said it is difficult to judge the success of the scheme simply by looking at the average amount used by patients.

"One reason for this could be that seniors are tapping other Medisave schemes first, and the limits set in those schemes are reasonable," said Dr Kang Soon Hock, who heads the social science core at the School of Arts and Social Sciences at SIM University.

"Thus, they may not have to tap Flexi-Medisave as a supplement unless it is necessary."

Healthcare economist Phua Kai Hong, who is a visiting professor at the graduate school of public policy at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, said that in general, people must know about any new scheme for it to work as intended.

Said Dr Phua: "More social marketing and public education will be required to increase awareness and uptake."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline '$85 of $200 Flexi-Medisave used on average'. Print Edition | Subscribe