MediShield Life coverage extended to three new areas

Nurses walking past the emergency department of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. The Ministry of Health said that the changes in MediShield Life coverage will not result in premium increases. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The national health insurance scheme has been extended to cover more health needs, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Wednesday (Nov 7).

The move is part of the ministry's continuing review of MediShield Life to "ensure that it provides protection for Singaporeans against large hospital bills and selected costly outpatient treatments, in keeping with developments in medical care".

Since July 15, patients admitted to a community hospital from a public hospital's emergency department have been covered. They can claim up to $350 per day from MediShield Life, which is the prevailing inpatient limit for community hospitals.

In the past, only patients who had been warded in a public hospital and were transferred to a community hospital for convalescence were covered by MediShield Life.

But the MOH said it has assessed that patients who have been reviewed at a public hospital emergency department to be stable, whose condition has been clearly diagnosed, and who require a period of medical, nursing and/or rehabilitation care can benefit from direct admission to a community hospital.

Examples of problems where patients can benefit from direct admission to a community hospital are urinary tract infection or treatment of non-surgical wounds such as bed sores.

Coverage has also been extended to two other areas, with effect from Nov 1.

People who suffer from chronic intestinal failure and require intravenous nutrition can now claim up to $1,700 a month from MediShield Life and can also take an additional $200 from their Medisave accounts.

To qualify, they must have a disease that does not allow their bodies to absorb the nutrients from food, and requires them to use parenteral nutrition, which is given through the blood in place of normal food, for at least 90 days. Or they need to suffer from one of eight conditions that requires them to be on parenteral nutrition.

The other area now covered by MediShield Life is surgical operation for those suffering from two rare, life threatening conditions - trisomy 18 (where the infant has an extra chromosome) and alobar holoprosencephaly (where the brain fails to divide properly into right and left hemispheres).

MOH said surgical interventions for these conditions were previously excluded from MediShield Life coverage as treatment was not effective, but more recent international studies have shown that surgical interventions can now improve the quality of life and survival of patients.

The changes in MediShield Life coverage will not result in premium increases, it said, adding that a review of premiums will be conducted by the end of 2020.

Commenting on the changes on his Facebook page, Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong said the move to have MediShield Life cover direct admission to a community hospital from a public hospital's emergency department would "allow care to be provided in the most appropriate setting".

Patients who still cannot afford their bills after government subsidies, insurance and Medisave can apply for help from Medifund, the medical safety net.

"No Singaporean will be denied appropriate healthcare due to an inability to pay," he said.

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