Efforts to make mental health treatment more affordable, optimise insurance coverage for Singaporeans

Mental health has made headlines amid the pandemic, with one concern raised over the cost of getting help.
Mental health has made headlines amid the pandemic, with one concern raised over the cost of getting help.ST ILLUSTRATION PHOTO

SINGAPORE - Mental health has made headlines amid the pandemic, with one concern raised over the cost of getting help.

On Monday (Aug 2), Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary told Parliament that there are ongoing efforts to make treatment more affordable for Singaporeans.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) is also working with insurance companies and other stakeholders to "further optimise the coverage process".

He was responding to Ms Nadia Samdin (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who asked if the Government could work with private insurers to provide affordable and comprehensive mental health coverage.

She pointed out that people had also raised concerns over the confidentiality of their mental health records at public healthcare institutions.

"There remains a segment who fear that their... records will be accessible by government agencies, as well as employers," she said.

"And so they postpone seeking help because private help remains out of reach."

Dr Janil replied that all health records are held in confidence by medical practitioners, regardless of whether they are in the public or private sector. There is a "fair amount" of regulation and legislation in place to protect such information, he added.

Workers' Party MP Raeesah Khan (Sengkang GRC) said that MediSave withdrawal limits for inpatient mental health treatment are lower than those for other types of inpatient care.

She asked if MOH would review these limits with a view to equalising them.

People can use up to $550 a day from their MediSave accounts for acute hospital care but only up to $150 a day for inpatient psychiatric episodes.

"The principle is not so much to make sure that there is a completely flat equivalence for all conditions and all circumstances, but what is the outcome in terms of access and affordability - both bill size, out-of-pocket (payments) and the number of incidents of care-seeking behaviour within a period of time for an individual," Dr Janil replied.

Ms Raeesah then asked if the Government plans to build another tertiary psychiatric institution - in addition to the Institute of Mental Health - given how the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues here.

The Covid-19 Mental Wellness Taskforce, as well as a new inter-agency task force on mental health, is looking at the provision of infrastructure to deal with Singapore's needs, Dr Janil said.

"As to whether an extra tertiary hospital is necessary, it's one of the possibilities... It's not going to be the only issue we are studying," he added.


Getting help

National Care Hotline: 1800-202-6868 (8am - 12am)

Mental well-being

Fei Yue’s Online Counselling Service: eC2.sg website (Mon to Fri, 10am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm)
Institute of Mental Health’s Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222 (24 hours)
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours) /1-767 (24 hours)
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Silver Ribbon Singapore: 6386-1928/6509-0271 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788 (Mon to Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)/ Tinkle Friend website (Mon to Thu, 2.30pm to 7pm and Fri, 2.30pm to 5pm)

Counselling

TOUCHline (Counselling): 1800-377-2252 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Care Corner Counselling Centre (Mandarin): 1800-353-5800 (Daily, 10am to 10pm)