Debate on ministries’ budgets: Health

Parliament: MediShield Life cover for pregnancy complications

More financial support is coming soon for women who suffer from pregnancy complications, while those with a history of gestational diabetes will get more convenient access to early screening.

Some of the benefits will be available from April 1 when MediShield Life coverage will be extended to inpatient treatment for 24 serious pregnancy and delivery-related complications such as eclampsia and post-partum haemorrhage under the existing inpatient claim limits.

The changes could benefit up to 4,000 patients a year, said Mr Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Health during the debate on the Ministry of Health's (MOH) budget yesterday.

From June, the ministry will also extend subsidised screening under the Screen For Life programme to women who have had gestational diabetes - a condition that develops during pregnancy and puts them at a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later.

They will be automatically eligible for subsidised cardiovascular risk screening under the programme, and will no longer need to take the online diabetes risk assessment tool to qualify, said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health.

Dr Khor was responding to Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson), who asked what is being done to support women in the area of preventive health given that they are living longer.

The issue of financial help was also raised by Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC).

Mr de Souza asked last October whether the MOH could consider extending additional support for expectant mothers who find it difficult to obtain maternity insurance from private insurers due to previously experienced pregnancy complications.

He requested an update on the review during yesterday's debate, prompting Mr Tong to tell Parliament: "To alleviate concerns over healthcare expenses related to marriage and parenthood aspirations, we mentioned last year that MOH would review how to extend MediShield Life to cover serious pregnancy and delivery-related complications.

"These complications could give rise to large bills and become a worry for expectant parents."

The ministry consulted senior clinicians to come up with the list of serious pregnancy and delivery-related complications, which included cervical incompetency, gestational diabetes and medically necessary abortions.

The full list can be found at the MOH website.

The extension of Screen For Life to women with a history of gestational diabetes - and who need to start screening soon after pregnancy - is to improve screening rates and help to detect diabetes earlier and manage it.

The programme subsidises screenings for chronic diseases, including diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as cancers like breast and colorectal cancer for eligible Singaporeans and permanent residents.

An estimated one in five pregnant women here suffers from complications due to gestational diabetes.

Children born from such pregnancies are also more likely to develop childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline MediShield Life cover for pregnancy complications. Subscribe