OLD folk here will soon need to fork out less cash for outpatient medical expenses, as they can draw on an extra $200 each year from Medisave.
Come April, Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 65 and above will be able to use this sum for medical services, drugs and tests, as well as disease screening, among others.
The money is for use at public sector specialist outpatient clinics, polyclinics and Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) general practitioner clinics.
The latest change is part of an effort to expand the use of the national health savings plan so patients can use it to cover more of their medical bills.
Called Flexi-Medisave, it will help those with conditions - such as urinary tract infection - where outpatient medical expenses cannot currently be claimed under Medisave, as well as people who have to pay a portion of their bills in cash even after tapping government subsidies and maximising their Medisave withdrawal limits.
It is the latest among measures to loosen the Medisave purse strings. Other moves include a $300 annual Medisave allowance for outpatient scans that started this year.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced details of the new scheme at a Chas Family Carnival in Tampines yesterday.
"The elderly are a special group," he said. "They have either retired or, for those who work, earn less but incur higher health-care costs."
Under the scheme, husbands and wives, if aged 65 or above, can also use their spouse's Medisave account to pay for outpatient treatment if they do not have enough funds in their own account.
The Health Ministry gave the example of a patient who has to visit a public hospital's orthopaedic clinic for follow-up consultations after leg fracture surgery. He would need two to three consultations there, as well as physiotherapy.
After a subsidy, he might have to pay $300 in cash, including the cost of medicine and X-rays.
From April 1, he will be able to draw on $200 from Medisave too, so he will pay $100 in cash.
His wife, who visits the polyclinic every few months to treat her thyroid disorder, may have a $120 bill a year, after subsidies.
The man can use up to $200 from his Medisave account to pay for her treatments, on top of the $200 he has used for himself.
Flexi-Medisave can also supplement other outpatient uses of Medisave, such as an existing $400 limit for chronic diseases.
Said retired production controller Tay Peng Wah, 65, who has just been diagnosed with diabetes: "Flexi-Medisave would help ease financial pressure and free up cash for other purposes."
At yesterday's event, maps of Tampines Chas clinics and eldercare services were also launched. Such maps, piloted by the Agency for Integrated Care, may be extended to other areas in Singapore at a later time.
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, MP for Tampines GRC, also launched the Healthy Pathway@Tampines, a 1km walkway near Tampines MRT station.
Residents can register for a Healthy Pathway tag and, if they tap these tags at designated lampposts, they can accumulate points to get items such as supermarket vouchers.
Said one user Jek Kwok Kwong, 77, a part-time engineer: "Hopefully, this would encourage more elderly people to exercise. It is a good way to keep fit and make friends, so that one has good company when one grows old."
This article was first published on January 12, 2015.
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