SINGAPORE - WHEN news broke that MediShield will broaden its coverage next year to include the mentally-ill, she whooped in happiness.
"This is a start. It gives people with mental disorders a sense of acknowledgement that their condition is a medical one," said Ms Mahita Vas, 49, a bipolar disorder sufferer and an author of a book on the condition.
Currently, neither MediShield nor any other insurance scheme covers psychiatric treatments, listing them as "mental illness and personality disorders".
But from March next year, MediShield will extend its coverage to inpatient psychiatric treatment to encourage timely and appropriate treatment of mental conditions.
The low-cost medical insurance plan will pay out $100 a day for up to 35 days a year - but only for newly diagnosed conditions.
Happy for others
Ms Vas, whose husband used to foot all her bills, will not qualify, but she is happy for others who will get help from next year.
There is good news also for the elderly.
The changes in MediShield will better protect Singapore's rapidly ageing population.
The MediShield maximum entry age of 75 will be raised to 90 to enable those who are healthy but not insured to get coverage.
The policy year and lifetime limits will also go up, from $50,000 to $70,000, and from $200,000 to $300,000, respectively, said a statement from the Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday.
Class B2 and C ward deductibles will also rise moderately by $500 for those aged 80 and below.
The enhancements came after MOH received positive feedback from a public consultation in July and August to make MediShield more inclusive.
Following the feedback, the Ministry will also increase the Medisave withdrawal limits for MediShield and Integrated Shield Plans premiums from $800 to $1,000 for those aged between 76 and 80 and from $1,150 to $1,200 for those above age 80.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the withdrawal limits today may not be enough and some of them may have to fork out cash in order to pay for the premiums.
"That's why we adjusted the withdrawal limit so that most of them will not need to fork out additional cash. They will be able to tap on the Medisave up to the limit to pay for the MediShield," he said.
Mr Gan was speaking to reporters at the sidelines of the Asian Women's Welfare Association's 3rd Silver Sports Day yesterday.
On raising the insurance coverage age from 85 to 90 years to ensure that the elderly remain insured as they live longer, Mr Gan said that beyond age 90, the pool of Singaporeans are significantly smaller.
"From time to time we will continue to monitor the situation and if the pool gets large in absolute numbers then we can consider raising the age further," he said.
When asked about extending Medishield coverage to include congenital and neonatal conditions in children, Mr Gan said his ministry will "surface this issue" when they are discussing the marriage and parenthood package before making a final decision.
Know the 3Ms
A compulsory medical savings plan that lets you pay for either your own or immediate family members' hospitalisation expenses.
It has been extended to meet outpatient needs, such as paying for expensive outpatient treatments like chemotherapy, selected chronic outpatient care, and premiums for MediShield and Integrated Shield Plans.
An optional low-cost medical insurance plan to help Singaporeans meet the cost of prolonged hospitalisation and medical treatment.
It covers up to 80 per cent for class B2 and C hospital bills and premiums are paid through the Medisave accounts.
An endowment fund set up as a safety net to help needy Singaporeans pay for their medical expenses.
With an ageing population, a portion of Medifund is carved out as Medifund Silver to help needy elderly Singaporean patients.
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