Low- to mid-income S'poreans pay less for medicine from Jan 1

Low- to mid-income S'poreans pay less for medicine from Jan 1
Madam Chew Kim, accompanied by her husband Ng Thiam Hock, collecting her medicine from senior pharmacist Alvin Ng Hon Siang at NUH yesterday. She is among those who will enjoy higher subsidies.

Lower- to middle-income Singaporeans will pay less for medicine at polyclinics and subsidised specialist outpatient clinics (SOCs) from Thursday, when the new year starts.

Such patients with Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) cards will get a 75 per cent discount on subsidised medicine at these places.

On top of this, those from the pioneer generation - Singaporeans aged 65 and above this year and who became citizens before 1987 - will get an extra 50 per cent off.

The increased medication subsidies were announced during the Budget speech in February.

Currently, all Singaporeans get at least 50 per cent off subsidised medication at polyclinics and subsidised SOCs, such as the foetal care centre at the National University Hospital (NUH). They may get more if they are under 18 or 65 and above.

The higher discounts can mean savings of more than $4 for 28 tablets of carvedilol used to manage heart conditions, for instance.

These cost $5.88 for every subsidised patient regardless of age or income.

With the new subsidies, Chas cardholders pay $2.94, while cardholders who are of the pioneer generation pay only $1.47.

Yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor visited a session to prepare NUH staff for Thursday's roll-out, during which pharmacists role-played possible patient encounters.

"The focus is on training pharmacy staff because it is envisaged that most of the queries on subsidised medication will be at the pharmacies," she told reporters.

She said 1.5 million Singaporeans have visited subsidised SOCs in the past year. Mr Wu Tuck Seng, deputy director for NUH's pharmacy department, hoped the new medication subsidies will help patients better follow doctors' orders.

"Sometimes, the doctor prescribes six months' worth of medicine, but they take only three months' worth because they cannot afford it," he said.

One person who is glad for the higher discounts is Madam Chew Kim, 80, who takes various types of medication for arthritis, chronic headaches and stomach pain.

"It's good, otherwise I really wouldn't be able to see the doctor," she said in Mandarin. "Medicine is so expensive."

linettel@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Dec 30, 2014.
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