Citizens living overseas who do not plan to return to Singapore will soon be able to apply to stop paying their MediShield Life premiums.
The Ministry of Health announced the move yesterday after accepting a recommendation made by the 12-member MediShield Life Council. Those who meet the requirements can apply to the Central Provident Fund Board from Oct 7.
The suspension, if granted, will continue as long as applicants fulfil the necessary criteria.
If they no longer do so or choose to relocate back to Singapore, they will have to pay the accumulated sum of premiums not paid previously, with compound interest.
But they will not need to fork out additional premiums for health conditions that developed during the suspension of MediShield Life premium collection.
Should they seek medical treatment in Singapore during the suspension, they may choose to claim and benefit from MediShield Life payouts, although this would mean stopping the suspension. Similarly, they would have to pay the full sum of unpaid premiums with interest.
"This was a complex issue and the council took into consideration the varying circumstances of different groups of Singaporeans," said Mrs Fang Ai Lian, chairman of the MediShield Life Council. The decision followed a review with input from Singaporeans here and abroad.
"Ultimately, our aim is to ensure that MediShield Life continues to meet the healthcare needs of all Singaporeans," she said.
MediShield Life replaced MediShield from Nov 1 last year. It offers higher claim limits for hospital bills and some outpatient treatments, covering pre-existing medical conditions previously not covered by MediShield.
While those living overseas should remain covered, a small group with no intention to reside in Singapore may apply for a suspension. But they should meet criteria, such as providing "supporting indicators" that they do not intend to return. Besides having a valid permanent residency permit in their country of residence, they must have lived outside Singapore for at least five years immediately before their application, except for short visits.
Applicants should also be able to afford healthcare treatment in the country where they live and declare that they do not need to rely on MediShield Life here.
Dr Lily Neo, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said if citizens do not intend to return, they likely have to pay for insurance where they are living and the suspension will help them avoid paying double.
Financial analyst Charisse Tay, 24, who works in the United States, agreed with having the choice to "opt out". But she added that the compound interest might deter some people from returning.