MediShield Life details being finalised

THE much-awaited premiums for the new MediShield Life, which provides cover for every Singaporean for life, are set to be announced next month.

But the report from the committee set up last year to recommend changes to the existing MediShield will likely be delayed by a month, Mr Bobby Chin, who heads the review committee, confirmed yesterday.

The report was due by the end of this month.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told Parliament yesterday that the committee was still finalising details, but assured the House that the national health insurance scheme is on track to be implemented by the end of next year.

He also disclosed that the committee will share more details of the new scheme next month.

The committee has already announced that it plans to remove the current $300,000 lifetime limit, increase claimable limits and halve patients' co-payments.

The Health Ministry is agreeable to all of that.

Based on those recommendations, Mr Gan gave the example of Mr Yee Kwek Chin, 48, who was in a subsidised B2 ward for 14 days after suffering a stroke.

MediShield picked up $5,000 of his $9,800 bill.

With the changes, the insurance will pick up $7,300, leaving him to pay only $2,500.

Kidney-failure patient Hashim Abdul Rahim's claims will hit $300,000 in a few years' time. But with the change, he will continue to receive insurance coverage for his dialysis and hospital treatments.

While people welcome the improved coverage, they worry that premiums will be expensive.

Mr Gan said the committee has told him that most people hope the entire premium can be paid from Medisave, and will not require cash top-ups.

This is especially so in large families, where premiums have to be paid for children, as well as the elderly.

Mr Gan said the Government understands their concerns and again promised that the premiums will be "affordable".

The Government will help in three ways: permanent premium subsidies for the pioneers and the less well-off; Medisave top-ups for the elderly and low-income; and for those who still cannot afford the premiums, financial aid, like through Medifund.

Mr Gan, however, did not commit on whether the premiums can be entirely covered by Medisave, or whether cash top-ups will be needed by larger families, or those who do not qualify for subsidies.