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, and disease screening, among others.
The money is for use at public-sector specialist outpatient clinics, polyclinics and Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) 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 bill.
Called Flexi-Medisave, it will help those with conditions - say, a 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 bill in cash even after tapping on government subsidies and maximising their Medisave withdrawal limits.
It is the latest among measures to loosen the Medisave purse strings, which also include a $300 annual Medisave allowance for outpatient scans that started this year.
Details of the new scheme were announced by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong 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 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 an example of a patient who has to visit a public hospital's orthopaedic clinic for follow-up consultations after leg-fracture surgery. He needs two to three consultations there, as well as physiotherapy.
After a subsidy, he might have to fork out $300 in cash, which includes paying for medication and X-rays. From April 1, he can 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 pressures and free up cash for other purposes."
New maps of Tampines' community health services were also launched at the event, to let residents better know where these services are located.
These maps will be piloted in Tampines, then extended to other areas in Singapore if feasible.
Education Minister and Tampines GRC MP Heng Swee Keat 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 things like supermarket vouchers.
Said 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 he grows old."
Get MyPaper for more stories.