Singapore's oldest citizens will pay less when they visit the doctor or dentist from September.
Their Pioneer Generation card will entitle them to significant subsidies when they need treatment for the common cold or chronic ailments, as well as selected dental treatments and health screening.
Everyone 65 or older this year will qualify, regardless of what they earn or where they live, and will get these subsidies at 1,000 clinics across Singapore.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed last night that the subsidies, under the Government's Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas), will be more generous for pioneers than for poor and middle-income families already receiving this help.
The scheme is referred to commonly by the colour of the cards held by those who qualify - blue for lower-income families with a per capita household income of up to $1,100 and orange for middle-income families with a per capita income of between $1,101 and $1,800. Mr Gan said subsidies for the pioneers will be "better than orange and blue" and easy to use once their Pioneer Generation cards are activated on Sept 1. About 450,000 seniors will qualify.
For common illnesses like the cough and cold, a blue card holder gets a subsidy of $18.50 when he sees the doctor, and orange card holders get no subsidy. But a pioneer will get $28.50 per visit to the doctor.
Someone with a single chronic condition like diabetes gets a subsidy of $80 per visit and up to $320 per year with a blue card, and $50 per visit and up to $200 a year with the orange card. The pioneer will get $90 per visit, and up to $360 a year. Pioneers with multiple chronic illnesses can get up to $540 a year compared with $480 for those with the blue card and $300 for orange card-holders.
Mr Gan said a million people already suffer from diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels and stroke. "As the population ages, we will be faced with not only a growing number of patients with chronic diseases but also patients with more complex co-morbidities which will in turn place a heavier demand for health-care services," he said at the World Family Doctors' Day dinner at Marina Bay Sands. "This shift in disease burden calls for a strong, comprehensive and integrated people-centred primary care."
Like those with the blue and orange cards, pioneers who need specialist treatment will qualify to be referred directly to a public hospital specialist at subsidised rates, without needing a polyclinic referral.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced last year that Singapore's pioneers would be recognised for their contributions in the early days of nation-building. Not all the benefits have been announced, but most are likely to be health-linked, such as help with paying for medical insurance.
Mr Gan hoped more general practitioners would join the Chas network of doctors. So far, more than half the GP clinics here have signed up since Chas was rolled out in 2012.
To help GPs care for patients with multiple chronic problems, he also encouraged them to tap into the National Electronic Health Record. So far, just over 200 GP clinics are linked in.
He said GPs will play an important role in advising patients when to see a specialist and helping them navigate the different health-care settings, such as step-down care.
This article was published on May 18 in The Straits Times.
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