MediShield Life, which promises health insurance coverage for all later this year, gives the Health Minister wide-ranging powers to check the income and health status of all Singaporeans and permanent residents.
The legislation for implementing the scheme was introduced in Parliament yesterday by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, and the powers it confers were spelt out for the first time.
These include the power to check income from the taxman and to check health status from medical records at hospitals.
All this without needing to get permission from the individual being checked.
There is a clause, allowing those who object that this is too intrusive to refuse permission for such checks.
But they will not be eligible for income-related subsidies for their premiums, nor will they be automatically given a clean bill of health to avoid the 30 per cent penalty for 10 years imposed on those with pre-existing diseases.
The MediShield Life Scheme Bill also gives the Minister the same powers as the taxman for recovering unpaid premiums, like getting employers to deduct the sum from a worker's salary, or banks from the person's account.
The reason for the powers is that defaults by people who can afford to pay the premiums will make the load on other policy holders heavier.
In the new scheme, the coverage amount will be higher, co-payment by people will be lower and there will be no cap on the sum a person can claim in his lifetime. As a result, premiums will be higher than that of the current MediShield.
But the Government has pledged $4 billion in aid over five years, to ensure the scheme stays affordable. Also, two in three people will get 15 to 50 per cent permanent subsidies on their premiums.
Those who still cannot afford the premiums will get additional help from the Government.
For most people, the higher premiums can be covered fully by Medisave.
To simplify the procedure for identifying people with an existing serious illness, the administrator will have access to hospital records.
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