Saturday, July 21, 2012

Singapore - MediShield pemiums to rise but better coverage for S'poreans

SINGAPORE - The national health insurance scheme, MediShield, will soon be expanded to cover Singaporeans and permanent residents who are currently excluded.

The limits on how much can be claimed from MediShield will also be raised.

To support the enhancements, premiums for MediShield will be increased.

The majority of policyholders - those aged 65 and below - can expect to pay an additional $10 or less per month.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced these changes, which are set to take effect in the first quarter of next year.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event at Tan Tock Seng Hospital yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said of the changes: "We (are taking) the opportunity to see where we can enhance the coverage, especially for those who are more vulnerable."

With the expanded coverage, MediShield will provide financial relief to older seniors, along with newly diagnosed mental patients who require inpatient psychiatric treatment.

The maximum age for MediShield coverage will be raised from the current limit of 85 to 90.

An Institute of Mental Health (IMH) spokesman called the expanded MediShield a "positive step" that will help relieve the financial burden of patients.

He explained: "Currently, patients have to rely on their own or their family's Medisave. Those who require prolonged or repeated hospitalisation will find it a drain on their resources."

MOH is also looking into the coverage of newborn babies with congenital conditions, or medical problems that exist at birth.

As there are mixed views on the issue, MOH is seeking public feedback.

Of the 40,000 babies born every year in Singapore, about 860 reportedly have a serious birth defect.

Mrs Sylvia Mun, KK Women's and Children's Hospital's chief medical social worker, said: "One of the frustrations (that parents of such children) face is that when they try to buy health insurance for their newborn baby, they are often rejected and they worry about how they can continue to manage the cost of treating their baby."

She revealed that for a smaller number of "more-serious premature (birth) cases", the average medical bills can range from $10,000 to $60,000.

Medical expenses may even exceed $100,000, in the rare cases of babies with severe complications, as well as for those who need multi-stage operations and treatment.

To help patients with large medical bills, MOH will bump up the total amount one can claim, in a policy year and for life, from MediShield.

The policy-year limit for claims will be raised from $50,000 to $70,000, and the lifetime limit will be raised from $200,000 to $300,000.

Patients staying in Class C and Class B2 hospital wards will have to pay a greater initial amount before they are able to make claims from MediShield.

This amount forked out by patients, known as a deductible, will be raised from $1,000 to $1,500 for Class C wards, and from $1,500 to $2,000 for Class B2 wards.

On concerns over higher premiums and deductibles, Mr Gan assured Singaporeans that financial aid is in place, such as a one-time Medisave top-up of up to $400.

Gwendolyn Ng
my paper

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