SINGAPORE - The committee reviewing the insurance scheme for people with severe disabilities gave its interim update on Tuesday (Jan 30).
It said ElderShield coverage should be made compulsory, including for those with pre-existing disabilities.
It also recommended that people should start paying premiums at age 30 rather than 40 and suggested that the Government, rather than private insurance providers, should administer it.
It also called for the claims process to be simplified.
The full set of recommendations is expected to follow by the middle of this year.
Here are some frequently asked questions on ElderShield.
What is ElderShield, and how does it differ from MediShield Life? How is it different from other private disability insurance schemes?
Both ElderShield and MediShield Life are insurance schemes. But ElderShield is for people with severe disabilities, while MediShield covers large hospital bills.
As a general rule, the total and permanent disability insurance cover offered by private companies ends at age 65. With ElderShield, you stop paying premiums after age 65 but you can continue to make claims at any point for up to six years.
How does ElderShield work, and how do I make claims?
Every Singaporean is automatically enrolled into ElderShield when they turn 40, although those with pre-existing severe disabilities will not be covered.
To make a claim, you must be unable to perform at least three of the six activities of daily living: washing, dressing, feeding yourself, use the toilet on your own, moving around indoors on your own, and getting yourself from a bed to a chair or vice versa).
Download the claim form from your private insurer's website and then get an accredited doctor to give an assessment of your disability. The first payout will be given after your claim is approved.
What main changes is the committee recommending?
It wants to make ElderShield compulsory for everyone, and lower the age for joining the scheme from 40 to 30. It also wants the Government to administer the scheme - rather than private insurers - and called for the claims process to be made easier.
Why is the scheme being reviewed?
The Government felt it was necessary to plan for the long-term needs of Singapore's ageing population.
During the public consultation sessions, the ElderShield Review Committee found many people believed ElderShield should be part of the national social safety net, and hence administered by the Government in a "non-profit manner".
Others felt the claims process could be simplified.
In proposing a compulsory scheme for all Singaporeans, committee members spoke of a "collective responsibility"to help the disabled.
Currently, people on the scheme get a maximum of $400 a month for six years, at most. People have pointed out that this is not enough, although the review committee has not made any recommendations yet on this issue.
Will I be able to opt out of ElderShield?
The committee suggests that it be made compulsory for everyone once they hit 30 as part of "collective responsibility". This includes those with pre-existing disabilities, which is not the case now. People currently under Eldershield will still be able to opt out of the scheme. If the committee's suggestions are accepted, future cohorts can no longer do it.
If ElderShield becomes compulsory, what will happen to people who had opted out of it earlier?
The committee has yet to come up with recommendations for this group, although it said it will "strongly encourage" them to come on board. Some of the considerations include the higher premiums they have to pay compared to people who have stayed in the scheme all along.
In recent years, the opt-out rate has been around 5 per cent. When the scheme started, it was more than one-third.
Could Singaporeans living abroad be able to opt out of ElderShield, just like they can opt out of MediShield Life?
No. The committee's rationale is that ElderShield provides cash payouts that can be used wherever a person is living. MediShield Life, on the other hand, is focused on large bills incurred in local hospitals.
Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.