askST: What happens if I am unvaccinated and need treatment for Covid-19?

From Dec 8, those who are unvaccinated "by choice" against Covid-19 and become infected will have to pay for their own treatment. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - From Wednesday (Dec 8), those who are unvaccinated "by choice" against Covid-19 and become infected will have to pay for their own treatment. We answer some questions you may have on this topic.

Q: Does the rule apply to those who are already hospitalised before Dec 8?

A: This will apply to all unvaccinated Covid-19 patients admitted on or after Dec 8, 2021, to hospitals and Covid-19 treatment facilities. The Covid-19 medical bills for those who are ineligible for vaccination, such as children under 12 years old or those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, will still be fully paid for by the Government.

Q: I have received one dose of the vaccine. Do I have to pay for treatment if I am hospitalised for Covid-19 before the second dose?

A: No. The authorities have said those who are partially vaccinated will not be charged until Dec 31 to allow them time to be fully vaccinated.

Those who have received two shots of the Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccine will be regarded as fully vaccinated for four months after the second dose, or until Dec 31, whichever is later. Thereafter, they can keep their fully vaccinated status only if they have a third shot. Otherwise, they will have to pay for their own Covid-19 treatment if they get infected.

Q: Can unvaccinated Covid-19 patients use their insurance to pay for treatment?

A: Yes. They can tap their regular healthcare financing arrangements to pay their bills where applicable. These include regular government subsidies and MediShield Life or Integrated Shield plans for citizens and permanent residents, while long-term pass holders can tap the usual financing arrangements, such as private insurance.

Q: What is the bill size like?

A: The bill size depends on the severity of your condition and where the care is rendered. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has said that Covid-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice and end up in the intensive care unit (ICU) could be looking at a bill of around $25,000 before subsidies. The $25,000 is the median acute hospital bill size for those who require both ICU care and Covid-19 therapeutics, which can be pricey.

"Means-tested government subsidies and MediShield Life coverage can reduce the bill to about $2,000 to $4,000 for eligible Singaporeans in subsidised wards," said MOH in a previous reply.

If those unvaccinated by choice are sent to a Covid-19 treatment facility, the bill is expected to be around $4,500 for a seven-day stay.

For Singapore citizens, after subsidies and MediShield Life where applicable, the co-payment is around $1,000, according to MOH.

Q: Why is the Government making me pay for my Covid-19 medical bill?

A: When MOH made the announcement, it said that unvaccinated persons make up a sizeable majority of those who require intensive inpatient care, and they disproportionately contribute to the strain on the nation's healthcare resources.

The ministry wanted to encourage more people to get vaccinated, if they are eligible, as those who are aged 60 and above have a higher risk of falling very ill with Covid-19, especially if they are unvaccinated.

As at Dec 7, there were 827 Covid-19 patients in hospitals. A total of 146 required oxygen supplementation and 55 were in the ICU.

Q: It's my choice to not get vaccinated. Why should I be penalised for this?

A: In the midst of a pandemic that has killed so many people, choosing to not be vaccinated against Covid-19 when there are safe and effective vaccines available has major implications for the health of others, especially vulnerable people who may not be able to get the vaccine themselves, according to an Oct 18 article published on the website of Gavi, the vaccine alliance that is co-leading the Covax initiative pushing for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

"Thus, there is an argument from a human rights perspective for the freedom from harm caused by others, an equivalent argument for why it is illegal to drink and drive," it said.

The concept of doing something for the collective good breaks down if people start to make decisions based only on their individual beliefs, it said.

Globally, more than five million people infected with Covid-19 have died, including 771 in Singapore.

Q: Who else need to pay for their own Covid-19 medical bills?

A: All short-term visit pass holders have to pay for their own treatment here.

Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders also have to do so if they test positive for Covid-19 or have onset of symptoms within 14 days of their arrival here.

This means that from Jan 1, 2022, only Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders who are fully vaccinated and have not recently travelled will have their Covid-19 medical bills fully paid for by the Government.

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