When I first picked up my Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) application form at Tampines Polyclinic last year, following my retirement last October, a nurse there assured me that there was no means testing involved to see whether I qualified for the scheme.
However, I recently received a rejection letter saying that my family did not qualify for Chas.
It defined the qualification criteria as either households with a monthly income of $1,800 and below, or an annual home value of below $21,000 without income. We were rejected as we surpassed the monthly household income threshold.
I called Chas and was surprised to learn that the formula used is based on the "past 12 months" of annual income - of my spouse and myself - divided by 12 months to get the average, which is then divided by the number of people living at the same address.
I am a retiree without any income, while my spouse's gross annual salary is less than $25,000, which means that the household monthly income for the three members in my family, including a son who is a student, is about $694.
But we did not qualify for the scheme as my salary over the past 12 months, together with my wife's pay, had exceeded $1,800 a month.
This raises a few questions.
First, nowhere in the application form does it state that the "gross annual salary" figure is based on the past 12 months of income earned by those living at the same address.
Chas should print this in bold on the forms so that people will not waste their time applying.
Second, what are the reasons behind this formula?
Does it imply that those who have been retired for less than 12 months are able to support themselves financially using the past months' income? Does it mean that retirees should apply only a year later?
Chas could have done better in explaining its qualification criteria.
I was told that I could file an appeal but what would be the point, if the strict condition of using the past 12 months of income remained?
Many retirees are often on a tight budget and their savings alone are not enough to cover the high cost of living.
This article was first published on Feb 23, 2015.
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