The national health insurance scheme has been extended to cover more healthcare needs, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced yesterday.
The move, which will benefit about 2,000 people a year, 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 under MediShield Life. They can claim up to $350 per day - 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 MOH said patients who have been reviewed at a public hospital emergency department and found 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 bedsore. It estimates that about 2,000 patients a year could be sent directly to a community hospital.
Coverage has also been extended to two other areas, with effect from Nov 1.
Number of people set to benefit per year from the move to extend the MediShield Life insurance scheme to cover more healthcare needs.
People who suffer from chronic intestinal failure and require intravenous nutrition can now claim up to $1,700 a month from MediShield Life and also take an added $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 require them to be on parenteral nutrition.
MOH said there are about 20 patients per month who can now get insurance coverage.
And those with 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) - can have surgical operations paid for by the insurance.
MOH said surgical interventions for these conditions were previously excluded from MediShield Life coverage as treatment was not effective, but more recent international studies show that surgical interventions can now improve the quality of life and survival of patients. About 10 babies are born with these conditions each year.
Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong told The Straits Times: "These latest coverage extensions will ensure that MediShield Life continues to provide Singaporeans greater assurance and peace of mind about healthcare costs."
He also said on his Facebook page that insurance coverage for direct admission to a community hospital from an emergency department allows "care to be provided in the most appropriate setting".
These enhancements will not lead to MediShield Life premiums increasing. But premiums, which have been frozen since the launch of MediShield Life in November 2015, will be reviewed by the end of 2020.
Patients who still cannot pay their bills after subsidies, insurance and Medisave can get help from Medifund, the medical safety net.
MOH promised that "no Singaporean will be denied appropriate healthcare due to an inability to pay".