Parliament: MOH to see if Chas card users can be told of subsidies at clinics

The Health Ministry plans to look into whether Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) beneficiaries can be informed of their subsidy each time they use their card at a medical or dental clinic, said Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong yeste
The Health Ministry plans to look into whether Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) beneficiaries can be informed of their subsidy each time they use their card at a medical or dental clinic, said Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong yesterday in Parliament.LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO
The Health Ministry plans to look into whether Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) beneficiaries can be informed of their subsidy each time they use their card at a medical or dental clinic, said Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong yeste
Mr Edwin Tong said the error occurred when the system was migrated and the wrong software was uploaded. He assured the House that the software for means testing "is a mature system that has been running since 2012". But he added that the ministry is constantly seeking to improve quality assurance. ​The Health Ministry is also reviewing areas that can be strengthened, such as having an independent review for every major system change from now on.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) will look into whether Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) beneficiaries can be informed of their subsidy each time they use their card at a medical or dental clinic.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC) had asked in Parliament if patients could be told of the subsidies they are getting from the Government while they are still at the clinic, "so that they can verify the amounts themselves".

Medical and dental clinics have been taken off the Chas scheme in the past for suspected cheating.

Since January 2017, the ministry has required clinics to give Chas patients an itemised bill reflecting the subsidy they get.

Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong said: "We plan to look into this during future rounds of system enhancements."

Dr Chia told The Straits Times that informing patients of the subsidy "is so that patients can better keep track of the type and amount of deductions as some may not keep or inspect the bills, and it is an additional safeguard that the amount has indeed been deducted".

"Just because it's reflected on the bill may not mean the subsidy was applied, perhaps due to a glitch."

 
 
 
 

He said it is what credit and debit card companies and banks do when there is a transaction. Some government agencies are also doing it, such as for the SG Bonus given out during last year's Budget, he said.

Dr Chia, Nominated MP Walter Theseira and Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh had asked the MOH about the recently announced computation mistakes that resulted in some 7,700 people getting the wrong card when they applied for or renewed their Chas card. There is a higher subsidy with the blue card.

Associate Professor Theseira asked to what extent the cost of wrongly giving higher subsidies can be recovered.

Mr Tong reiterated that the estimated loss of $2 million will be borne entirely by the vendor.

People who qualified for a blue card but had been given the orange card have had their cards changed.

The 1,300 people who had used the card and received a lower subsidy will be reimbursed.

Those who received the blue card instead of the orange one they should have received will continue to enjoy the higher subsidy for the two years that the cards are valid.

Mr Tong said the error occurred when the system was migrated and the wrong software was uploaded.

He assured the House that the software for means testing "is a mature system that has been running since 2012". But he added that the ministry is constantly seeking to improve quality assurance.

The MOH is also reviewing areas that can be strengthened, such as having an independent review for every major system change from now on, Mr Tong added.

As to whether developing software in-house is a better option, Mr Tong said that if the solution is commercially mature, government agencies are more likely to outsource.

"This allows us to move at the pace needed to support the volume of IT system requirements across the healthcare system, while ensuring that the core capabilities continue to be developed internally."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2019, with the headline 'MOH to see if Chas card users can be told of subsidies at clinics'. Print Edition | Subscribe