MediShield Life gets MPs' backing

MediShield Life gets MPs' backing
Several MPs asked if MediShield Life premiums – which will remain unchanged for the first five years – can be kept affordable in the long term. Earlier, Mr Gan had assured the House that “those who need help with premiums will always receive support”.

The proposed MediShield Life insurance received unanimous support from all the 13 MPs, including three from the Workers' Party (WP), who spoke on it in Parliament yesterday.

But some were worried the medical insurance for everyone for the rest of their lives cannot be sustained, while others called for more premium subsidies.

Other issues raised include the Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) that two out of three people have bought from private insurers, and duplication of insurance with company coverage.

The MPs made these points during the debate on the scheme, following Health Minister Gan Kim Yong's speech to start the debate, which will continue today.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health, got the ball rolling by calling it a "bold move that promises to build a more equal and inclusive society".

But the Tanjong Pagar GRC MP is concerned whether it can remain both sufficient and sustainable, "given that both advances in health care and demand for health care can be unpredictable".

Dr Chia and several MPs also asked if premiums - which will remain unchanged for the first five years - can be kept affordable in the long term.

Fellow GPC member Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) asked if the ministry will, if necessary, "take steps to mitigate the impact of the increased premiums" beyond the first five years.

Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) urged the Government to "make clear distinctions with what is a 'must-have' and what is a 'good-to-have'".

Earlier, Mr Gan gave a summary of the report by the MediShield Life Review Committee led by Mr Bobby Chin, a former managing partner of international accounting firm KPMG Singapore.

It includes removing the lifetime claims cap, increasing benefits and retaining the deductible while reducing the co-payment amount people must pay out of their own pocket for hospital bills.

Mr Gan also raised the committee's concern on affordability of premiums after retirement, and agreed to people paying more in their younger years when they are still working so that they can get a premium rebate later in life.

He also promised to "revise Medisave withdrawal limits from time to time, to ensure they always fully cover the MediShield Life premiums".

Mr Gan assured the House that "those who need help with premiums will always receive support".

Nominated MP Mary Liew, while noting that the elderly and low-income workers have subsidies for their premiums, expressed concern for housewives and single parents. She asked the Government to help them.

Mr Gerald Giam, the Non-Constituency MP from the WP, asked for premium subsidies - which two out of three people will get - to be given automatically if they had been means-tested for other schemes.

He also asked for these subsidies to be pegged to health-care inflation so that their value "is not eroded with rising health-care costs and premiums".

Several MPs also spoke of IPs offered by five private insurers, which add on to the basic MediShield and is pegged at private wards or hospitals.

Mr Ang Wei Neng, (Jurong GRC) praised the idea of setting up a standardised IP for stay at a private B1 hospital ward.

He hoped more companies will "choose to pay B1 IP premiums for their employees" rather than have their own health insurance schemes which are not portable.

The committee had recommended that firms support MediShield Life as a portable scheme.

Mr Gan also spoke of "strengthening incentives" to companies willing to provide portable medical benefits to their workers.

salma@sph.com.sg www.facebook.com/ST.Salma @STHealth


This article was first published on July 9, 2014.
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