MediShield Life: Must I pay more if I have a pre-existing illness? Senior Health Correspondent Salma Khalik answers this and more

Q: Isn't the maximum per capita income level of $2,600 to qualify for permanent subsidies rather low if two out of three people are to get them?

According to SingStats, 67 per cent of residents live in households with this or lower income level.

A working couple with two kids and an elderly parent, earning a total of $12,000 a month, would qualify, as their per capita income is $2,400.

Q: I am a permanent resident. Can I participate in MediShield Life and do I get any subsidies?

As a PR, you must join MediShield Life. You can get a subsidy if your income level entitles you to it - but at half the amount a Singaporean gets. However, you will not get the four years of transitional subsidies which will only be for citizens.

Q: I have heard that Singaporeans who live in condominiums and landed property will get less or even no subsidy, even if their per capita income is low. Is this true?

That depends on the value of your property. If the annual value - the amount you would get if the place was rented out - is less than $13,000, you will get the full subsidy. If it is $13,000-$21,000, you get 10 percentage points less - this means that if someone your age and income bracket gets a 30 per cent subsidy, you will get a subsidy of 20 per cent. Those living in homes with annual values of more than $21,000 will not get any subsidies.

Q: How do I find out the annual value of my house?

If you are the owner, you can go to the website and sign in with your SingPass to find out the value.

Q: I have a pre-existing illness and am glad to now qualify for MediShield Life. But how much more in premiums will I have to pay, and will I also get the government subsidies?

You will have to pay 30 per cent more in premiums than others in your age band, for the first 10 years.

If your per capita income entitles you to a subsidy, it will also apply to the additional 30 per cent you need to pay.

So for example, you are entitled to a 50 per cent subsidy, and people in your age band pay a premium of $500 a year. Your premium will be $650. But because you get a 50 per cent subsidy, you only need to pay $325 - which can come from your Medisave.

Q: How do the higher premiums for MediShield Life affect the premiums I pay for my Integrated Shield Plan (IP)?

The changes, if any, will only come when MediShield Life is launched at the end of next year. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has given the assurance that you should face similar, or even lower, increases than people on the basic MediShield.

Q: When is the Government setting up this new standardised Class B1 Integrated Shield Plan? Should I take it up?

There are no details yet, but it is likely to be timed with the launch of MediShield Life at the end of next year.

Whether you should take it up will depend on what class of hospital ward you are likely to go to should you be seriously ill. You should buy an insurance plan for the class.

Q: If I am already on a Class A or private hospital IP, can I downgrade to this new standardised IP? If I change plan, do I have to have a medical all over again? Can I transfer the premiums paid on my current IP to this new IP or do I start all over again?

Yes, you will be able to downgrade, if your insurer offers a B1 plan. There is no need for a medical when you downgrade. Premium is paid for each year and is not cumulative. When you stop a plan, you will be refunded the balance.

Q: Can those with pre-existing illnesses take up this new standardised IP or any other IP if they want to upgrade their coverage?

It is up to the individual insurer if it wants to cover you fully, or with exclusions for your medical condition. It may charge you a higher premium than others in your age band to cover you for your pre-existing illness.

Q: I had been fully covered on a B1 class IP. But when I upgraded it to an A Class plan, I was excluded for conditions I had recently acquired. Will I need to pay the 30 per cent loading for pre-existing conditions for MediShield Life?

No, because you have been covered all along by MediShield under your B1 plan.

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