Singapore Budget 2019: A pleasant surprise for the Merdeka Generation

A total of $6.1 billion will be set aside under the Merdeka Generation Package, the bulk of which will go towards easing the burden of healthcare costs for nearly 500,000 Singaporeans. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Merdeka Generation (MG) package for Singaporeans born in the 1950s has turned out to be more generous than anticipated.

All seniors from this generation will get a $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver cards as well as an additional $1,500 if they opt in to CareShield Life when it is open to them from 2021.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said that the MG package would be less generous than the Pioneer Generation (PG) package. This is only fair as the PGs were around in the early days of nationhood and would have lower savings than the younger MGs, and hence, require more help.

So what the Pioneers got were:

- PG cards that give them higher subsidies at Chas medical and dental clinics than the Blue Chas card (given to lower-income people).

- An additional 50 per cent off medicine and services at polyclinics and hospital specialist outpatient clinics.

- $200-$800 top-ups to their Medisave accounts for life.

- MediShield Life premium subsidies of 40-60 per cent.

- $100 a month for those who need help with three of the following: eating, bathing, dressing, walking, going to the toilet and moving from bed to chair.

The MG members are getting somewhat similar benefits to the Pioneers, but at a lower rate.

So the MG card provides subsidies at Chas clinics that sit somewhere between what a PG card gets and what a blue Chas card gives. MG members get an additional 25 per cent off medicine and services at public clinics.

They will also get top-ups of $200 a year in their Medisave accounts, but only for five years. This too is fair, since the Merdeka Generation members will live longer and hence collect benefits for many more years than Pioneers. So giving top-ups for a fixed number of years makes sense.

They will also get 5-10 per cent subsidies for their MediShield Life premiums. Again, much lower than the Pioneers, but MG members would have more in their Medisave to pay for this.

These benefits will be given to all MG members. Those who already get help following means-testing will continue to receive that help.

What they will not be getting, though, is the $100 a month for disabilities.

That's because MG members were young enough to have joined ElderShield when it was launched, but most Pioneers were too old then.

Instead, they are being offered an additional $1,500 to encourage them to switch from ElderShield to CareShield Life.

This came as a very pleasant surprise, since MG members already get the "participation" bonus of $2,500 announced earlier.

Now those who join CareShield Life, which would pay them $600 a month if they are unable to do three of the six activities of daily living, will get a total of $4,000 off the premiums they will have to pay over a 10-year period.

As an MG member, this could tilt the scales in deciding whether I opt in for CareShield Life.

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