Health-care subsidies for PRs cut

SINGAPORE - Health-care subsidies for permanent residents (PRs) will be cut from the third quarter of this year, as part of moves to sharpen the difference in benefits for Singapore citizens and PRs.

The adjustments will mean that subsidies for PRs in most income bands will be half of what Singapore citizens receive.

The Ministry of Health announced yesterday that the adjustments will affect subsidies for inpatient-treatment services, such as staying in Class B2 and C wards, day surgery and treatment at specialist outpatient clinics.

The changes will apply to PR patients in restructured hospitals and those in intermediate- and long term-care facilities.

Currently, the subsidies PRs enjoy for staying in Class B2 and C wards in public hospitals and national centres are 20 percentage points less, compared to those for Singaporeans.

Under the revised subsidy structure, PR subsidies will drop even further, to half of what Singapore citizens receive.

PRs with lower monthly incomes will get a smaller cut in subsidies.

To mitigate the impact of the adjustments, the Health Ministry said the changes will be gradually introduced in two phases - in October and in April next year.

However, Dr Lam Pin Min, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health, felt the subsidy reduction was "excessive".

"The current difference in subsidy between Singaporeans and PRs is already 20 percentage points," he said.

Changes are a 'fair differentiation' between PRs and citizens

He explained that the changes may present an additional burden to many Singaporean households, as they may have family

members who are PRs, sometimes not by choice but because they have been unsuccessful in obtaining citizenship.

But Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, who is the deputy chairman of the GPC for Health, said the changes are a "relatively fair differentiation".

She said the Government "must make a clear differentiation" between the two groups.

"The changes must not just be a token difference. It must be significant and fair to the citizens of Singapore," she added.

On whether the changes are likely to stir up unhappiness among PRs, she said: "We just have to accept the changes. Singaporeans definitely want to see the differentiation being made."

She added that the acute health-care sector is unlikely to be affected, as PRs who need medical care urgently will still seek treatment, and that the impact of the adjustments would not be severe because of the staggered implementation.

Some PRs my paper spoke to said that, while the adjustments are significant, it is unlikely to have a long-term impact on them.

Administrative assistant, Mike Lopez, 25, a Filipino PR, explained: "We will feel the pinch initially but, after a while, we'll get used to it.

"It will be more expensive for us, but health care is more important."

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