63 employers failed to pay medical bills of migrant workers between 2016 and 2020

Employers may claim medical expenses from insurance plans they are mandated to purchase and maintain for their migrant workers. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Between 2016 and 2020, there were 63 cases of employers not paying the medical bills of their migrant workers, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad on Monday (March 8).

He added that for the vast majority of these substantiated cases, employers paid up shortly after administrative actions were taken by the Ministry of Manpower.

The remainder were prosecuted under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.

Responding to Workers' Party MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) on migrant workers' healthcare needs, Mr Zaqy reiterated that employers are responsible for their workers' medical expenses incurred in Singapore. Before being repatriated, injured workers have to be certified medically fit to fly, and fulfil any requirements to be physically present here to process work injury or salary claims.

The MOM took action against two errant employers for illegally repatriating migrant workers in the past five years, said Mr Zaqy.

Employers may claim medical expenses from insurance plans they are mandated to purchase and maintain for their migrant workers.

The minimum coverage of $15,000 typically suffices to foot 95 per cent of all hospital bills arising from non-work injuries. Most employers also buy work injury insurance coverage of at least $45,000 per accident, which will also cover 95 per cent of work injury bills, said Mr Zaqy.

Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng later added that for the remaining 5 per cent with hospitalisation bills exceeding coverage amounts, the MOM - together with the Ministry of Health - has a special fund to draw on to ensure no worker is denied the care they need.

Mr Zaqy said that in medical emergencies, hospitals will proceed even without a Letter of Guarantee (LOG), typically requested from employers prior to treatment. But for non-emergency cases, hospitals may ask for the letter before treatment, for assurance that the employer is able to pay.

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) asked if the MOM could review this requirement.

Said Mr Zaqy: "The requests come from hospitals because they would like to be assured that employers can pay. For me, personally, I do not think that this is needed, but however the hospitals have a very different view. This is something we will continue to work with the hospitals to assure them."

He added that the MOM is reviewing medical insurance coverage to help employers better manage large, unexpected medical expenses.

Dr Tan also pointed to a new onboarding process announced last Wednesday, where migrant workers will undergo medical examination and screening in one location.

"With that as part of an overall comprehensive review, we will then be able to also price in the risks more accurately and more precisely," he said. "We've already engaged quite a number of insurance companies locally to help us to come up with the underwriting of these premiums."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.