SINGAPORE - The Government will pump in an additional $3.1 billion for long-term care schemes and also enhance Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) subsidies, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Monday (Feb 18).
The additional funds for long-term care build on the $2 billion earmarked last year for premium subsidies and other forms of support for Singaporeans.
The $5.1 billion will go into a new Long-Term Care Support Fund that will help fund subsidies for disability insurance CareShield Life and other long-term care support measures.
These measures include ElderFund, which will be launched next year to to help severely disabled, lower-income Singaporeans who need additional financial support for long-term care and might not be able to join CareShield Life, or have low Medisave balances.
"As we age, the chances of having one form of disability or another rises significantly," he said, adding that the Ministry of Health (MOH) estimates that one in two healthy Singaporeans aged 65 could become severely disabled in their lifetime, and may need long-term care.
Mr Heng also shared more details on the extension of Chas, which was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last year's National Day Rally.
The scheme will be extended to all Singaporeans who have chronic conditions regardless of income. Currently, Chas subsidises medical and dental care at general practitioner (GP) and dental clinics for lower- and middle-income Singaporeans as well as those from the Pioneer Generation, or Singaporeans who were aged 16 and older in 1965.
In addition, those with the orange Chas card (people who have a household monthly income per person of between $1,101 and $1,800) who currently receive subsidies only for chronic conditions will also get subsidies for common illnesses like cough and cold.
The subsidies for complex chronic conditions will also be increased.
These changes will see an expected increase in payouts for Chas subsidies to more than $200 million a year, said Mr Heng.
In 2017, the Government disbursed about $154 million in Chas subsidies to about 650,000 Singaporeans.
The number of Chas card holders has grown by five times to about 1.3 million Singaporeans from 2012 to 2017, and the amount spent on the scheme has also grown by more than 10 times over this period.
"Chas makes it possible for more Singaporeans to turn to GP clinics near their homes to manage their chronic conditions," said Mr Heng.
"But we must also put in the measures to ensure that Chas clinics are delivering good outcomes," he added.
To do this, MOH will study how to help Chas clinics better track their patients' progress and outcomes, and review its clinical guidelines for care provided at Chas dental clinics to ensure appropriate care is given to patients.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong will provide more details on these changes during the coming debate on his ministry's budget.