MediShield Life may scrap $300k limit

Panel will also look at feasibility of giving premium rebates to those who stay healthy

When the MediShield insurance scheme changes in 2015 to include everyone for life, the current $300,000 lifetime limit will likely be scrapped.

And if the MediShield Life review committee chairman Bobby Chin has his way, people who stay healthy will get rebates on their annual premiums.

After a second focus group discussion on the upcoming changes, held at the Singapore Management University yesterday, he said in response to several suggestions tossed up: "If it's affordable, makes sense and benefits Singaporeans, I don't see why not."

A point raised by several participants that caught his attention was the "wastage" caused by duplication of insurance coverage. Today, most companies provide insurance cover for employees, but such coverage stops when they leave the firm or retire.

When MediShield Life starts, everyone needs to be on it from day one, and this will mean double insurance coverage for many working adults. Several of the 40 participants at yesterday's discussion asked if the two could be incorporated, or if employers could pay their employees' MediShield Life premiums and use that as the first layer of insurance.

A few felt that putting everyone into the same pool, whether they are sick and likely to start claiming right from the start or are healthy and have been paying premiums for many years, is unfair.

One participant said: "Now, those who are sick and cannot pay get help from Medifund. With MediShield Life, we have to pay their bills." He suggested having two groups - one for people who join while healthy, and another for those already sick.

But another participant felt it should be viewed as a form of charity by the healthy for the less fit.

Someone else thought the Government should put in a lump sum to take care of sick people who join the scheme.

Some participants liked the idea of regular compulsory health screening for all policyholders. This could help them stay healthy and out of hospital. If everyone did that, premiums could be lower.

Having premiums based not just on age but also on income - so that better-off people pay more into the pot - was well received. Look at it as a form of tax, said one.

One man said the hefty tax on cigarettes - which lead to poor health - should go into the MediShield Life premiums.

Several participants said the Medisave portion of Central Provident Fund savings should be raised to cover 20 to 25 years of post-retirement health-care costs.

Many said they had Integrated programmes on top of MediShield, meant for those who prefer higher ward classes, from B1 and above.

Several brought letters from their insurers telling them of 60 to 75 per cent premium increases. One woman suggested greater government regulation of these schemes.

Mr Chin promised that his committee comprising 11 members, several of whom were present, will give serious consideration to the various suggestions, and will release some decisions before its May deadline.

He encouraged those interested to keep an eye on the MediShield Life webpage - www.medishieldlife.sg - as discussions will move from general feedback to specific topics.

salma@sph.com.sg

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