Help for longer time likely with ElderShield review

A domestic helper and an elderly in a wheelchair seen at a pedestrian overhead bridge.
A domestic helper and an elderly in a wheelchair seen at a pedestrian overhead bridge.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

An impending review of the ElderShield insurance scheme for long-term care of people with severe disabilities could see more of them receiving help for a longer period of time.

The Health Ministry will form a committee to study the scheme, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced yesterday. "We hope ElderShield will be able to cover more people, provide better protection and be kept affordable."

The national scheme, which has helped more than 7,000 people since it was introduced in 2002, needs to be strengthened because society is ageing rapidly, he said.

Citing figures, he said one in every two persons will eventually have a long-term disability and become unable to look after themselves.

Currently, if a person develops a severe disability and needs help with daily activities, ElderShield provides cash payouts of $300 a month for up to 60 months or $400 a month for up to 72 months, depending on when the policyholder joined the scheme. This can help offset the cost of, say, nursing needs or employing a maid.

But six years of payouts may not be enough, and not everyone is covered under the scheme, said Mr Lee, explaining the need for a review.

Singapore residents with Medisave accounts are automatically enrolled in the opt-out scheme at the age of 40. Those with pre-existing severe disabilities may not be covered.

The review is part of improvements to the social safety net for the elderly in recent years. These include the introduction of MediShield Life and the Pioneer Generation Package to help them with medical expenses, as well as the CPF Life annuity and Silver Support for their living expenses.

The Government has tripled its social spending from 10 years ago and is now supporting more people, Mr Lee said. "That means all of you would have received some measure of help from the Government, and those who are in need receive more help," he said. "With the enhanced ElderShield, we will pretty much have all the components of our social safety net in place."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2016, with the headline 'Help for longer time likely with ElderShield review'. Subscribe