The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) last night took issue with Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say's claim that the People's Action Party (PAP) has eased medical costs for Singaporeans, likening his touting of MediShield Life at a rally on Thursday to selling "koyok", using the Malay word for snake oil.
"To me it sounds like those koyok sellers because he didn't tell us all the facts!" medical professor and Holland-Bukit Timah GRC contender Paul Tambyah told a rally at the Petir Road field.
He faulted Mr Lim for not mentioning that the insurer's payments are capped once a patient's hospital bills cross a certain limit.
"This is unique, uniquely Singapore. In no other health insurance in the world is there a cap on how much the insurance pays. There is usually a cap on how much you pay as a patient," said Prof Tambyah.
"It's like persuading these old grandmothers to spend their hard-earned savings on koyok that doesn't work," he added.
If elected, the SDP intends to abolish the Medisave scheme and return the funds to individuals' Central Provident Fund (CPF) accounts. It will also push for a "fair universal health insurance scheme" by raising the Government's portion of the country's healthcare expenditure from 30 per cent to 70 per cent.
Prof Tambyah also rebutted PAP candidate for Tanjong Pagar GRC Dr Chia Shi-Lu, who at a Wednesday rally wondered why many Singaporeans are still concerned about healthcare costs, and warned that free healthcare could also mean waiting more than a year for essential cancer therapy. "The SDP has never asked for free healthcare," he said.
Prof Tambyah, 50, was the seventh speaker to take the stage at the SDP's second rally this general election. The other speakers included SDP's Bukit Panjang SMC candidate Khung Wai Yeen, 34, Bukit Batok SMC candidate Sadasivam Veriyah, 63, Yuhua SMC candidate Jaslyn Go, 43, and Holland-Bukit Timah GRC candidates Sidek Mallek, 55, and Chong Wai Fung, 45. Former Internal Security Act detainee Vincent Cheng also spoke.
Party chief Chee Soon Juan was the final speaker of the evening, rousing the crowd with a sharply drawn outline of SDP's alternative policy proposals. His call for more transparency in the handling of CPF monies, and for Singaporeans' ownership of their savings to be restored, prompted loud cheers.
"There is no guarantee that the PAP will not keep raising the CPF withdrawal age," he said, criticising the Government's long-held view that these savings would be "squander(ed)" by the people if they were allowed to withdraw them.
Dr Chee said his previous requests for data on misspending trends to be made public had been turned down by the PAP, and said: "If only a small number actually do it, then how can the government punish the majority for the deeds of a small minority?"
All nine speakers last night said their policy ideas were grounded in ideals. Dr Chee, 53, spoke of how he tried to impart certain values to his three children: "(I tell them) that if they see their friends getting bullied... they must intervene. I tell them that it's better to get a bloody nose than become cowardly and indifferent in the face of cruelty and injustice."
• Additional reporting by Walter Sim