Good that Careshield Life is inclusive, but payouts need to be higher: Young Singaporeans

Graphic designer Benson Tiew, 38, needs a wheelchair to get around after a traffic accident in 2002 left him paralysed from the waist down.
Graphic designer Benson Tiew, 38, needs a wheelchair to get around after a traffic accident in 2002 left him paralysed from the waist down.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - The new long-term care insurance that replaces the ElderShield scheme in 2020 with more support for those with disabilities seems to have won broad support but many feel the payouts should be higher.

That is the view from Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) The Straits Times spoke to about the new policy.

They generally praised the inclusivity of CareShield Life but felt the initial cash payout of $600 a month would barely cover their expenditure.

"It's enough for now because I'm still working," said graphic designer Benson Tiew, 38, who needs a wheelchair to get around after a traffic accident in 2002 left him paralysed from the waist down.

"But it won't be enough for my living expenses when I stop working and have to live on my own with a domestic helper."

His 66-year-old mother is the main caregiver to him and his father, 69, who suffered a stroke 13 years ago.

Mr Tiew, a PR who did not have any disability insurance before his accident, thinks a payout of at least $1,000 would be adequate.

His three younger brothers help pay the family's expenses while Mr Tiew spends only $200 to $400 of his $1,500 monthly salary, but that amount can double with wheelchair maintenance.

Caregiver Suresh Vanaz, 39, agrees that the payouts need to be higher.

His brother Gunaseelan Purushothaman, 34, has cerebral palsy and racks up $4,000 worth of hospitalisation, medication, transport and other living costs a month.

"Financially, it's a good help, but it's still a very small amount," said Mr Suresh, who has been taking care of his brother with a domestic helper for the last 12 years since their mother died.

He does acting and hosting part-time because his caregiving duties prevent him from holding a full-time job.

 
 

Mr Suresh thinks that the monthly payouts from CareShield Life need to be at least $2,000 given his brother's situation.

"Whatever I save goes to him and he's not able to be covered by any insurance," he said of his brother, who is in hospital after a seizure last Sunday (May 20).

Another point of concern is the ability of less severely disabled people who do not qualify for the payouts to afford the yearly premiums.

"We're happy that the scheme is becoming more inclusive, because it's very hard for people with disabilities to get insurance," said Dr Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills, executive director of the Disabled People's Association.

"But given their low employment rate, I hope there can be means-tested subsidies for those who are already disabled, and may have more disabilities later in life."

She added that the payout needs to be higher than $600, but more research needs to be done to find out the average monthly living expenses for people with disabilities to determine an accurate amount.

Singaporeans without disabilities acknowledge the prudence of joining CareShield Life at a younger age, but some would like to have a say in opting out.

"If something happens and you really need it, it's worth it," said Mr Arwinder Singh, 28, an international franchising area manager who has personal accident and critical illness insurance.

"While it's a safeguard by the Government, I don't like not having the choice to opt out. People are more educated and we are more aware of what insurance we can take up."

Ms Guo Li Quan, 30, said she would stay on CareShield Life even if it was not compulsory as she feels it is the cheaper alternative to private insurance plans.

"I would like to be assured of a certain cap on the premiums," said the senior human resources executive. "If there's any need to put in more money, then it would be encouraging to see the Government come up with that, with everyone chipping in."